Ever notice how the team sports in America are always the most popular? Football, basketball, and baseball are the biggest pro industries, most well attended and highest revenue generating of all sports; far more than golf, gymnastics or any of the individual Olympic sports. That’s not to say we don’t love a great individual performance, like say Tiger Woods in his heyday. But there is just something really appealing about a team. You ever wonder why that is?
I think that team performance is qualitatively different and better than individual performance for two types of reasons: A higher cause and greater things are achieved than can be done by individuals.
Let’s take a look at the higher causes:
- There’s no “I” in team- All the great stories, movies or heroic acts that truly move and inspire us have something in common. The hero is willing to put self at risk for other people or a cause that is in the benefit of others. Take for example running into a burning building or standing up with life at risk against apartheid. There is something inherent and natural in humanity that causes these choices; it’s how we’re wired. To put others first or to serve others at personal sacrifice is innate and reflected in the sports we watch. Imagine throwing yourself into a 300lb lineman on a block to help your team score a touchdown. The winner is the team and more importantly, their fans but least of all the blocker.
- There’s something beautiful about people working together for a common goal. Imagine going to a live basketball game and watching your team move the ball around and move without the ball to put them in the best position to score. It’s almost as if the ball is the center of all things and the players move so as to safely escort it to the basket, its home. To see real people in the flesh doing this is hypnotic, and I don’t think I need to see how much money or time we spend to prove my point.
- More get’s done. It’s plain to see that a team can get more done and go farther than any individual. There’s probably something about our need for friends/family and support networks in this too, but I digress. At eyespeak we have a longstanding tradition we call Amish Day, which we use when deadlines are coming or a big project needs to get pushed forward. Amish Day follows the Amish tradition of the townspeople coming together for a single day to raise a barn for one of the families. If it were left to the family alone, it might take months to complete what the town can do together in 1 day. That’s teamwork.
- It allows specialization. In sports, as in most businesses, not only more gets done on a highly functioning team but what’s achieved couldn’t possibly be done by one person alone. We all know that it’s best to do what you’re good at, what you were created to do. In the team framework, most great works require teams not because it would take one person too long to do something (effectively) but rather because no one person has the skill needed to do everything on their own. This is as true in business as it is in sports, especially American ones and is clearly seen in football, as every position is highly specialized. Most people play only one position (out of roughly 25+ on a team) and rarely do you see someone playing more than two (and they’re usually closely related).
I’m sure you have your favorite sports and teams, but have you ever asked yourself why you pay such close attention to the games themselves? I understand hometown/state pride and caring about the outcome, but that doesn’t justify watching the games themselves. No one play or series of plays determines the outcome. Why do you watch your teams?