I need to confess that I’m a hypocrite. I don’t try to be, but I am. I recently became convicted of two practices that expose a conflict between my actions and my stated beliefs about teamwork. I’ve always rated myself highly in terms of building and working with teams. Yet these two practices don’t back up my talk. These are a bit random, but it’s a Friday.
1. My favorite TV shows are anti-teamwork. I’m a fan of House, the show about Dr. Gregory House and his band of disciples. While the circumstances provide opportunity for his understudies to work and live together, in a sense forming a stilted community forged by common hardship (their boss), Dr. House demonstrates no ability or desire to draw them into his confidence or to invest in them. His entire driver is ego, and he keeps them around to feed his reputation as the answer man. When he’s not present, their efforts at medical problem solving are futile. He has to be the hero.
Then there’s The Closer. While she’s a lot more likable than Dr. House, Brenda is just like him in that her staff are helpless without her to swoop in and draw out a confession. Why doesn’t she equip them to be able to do the same thing? In her case, ego is less obvious; she needs to be needed.
2. I have not participated in a team sport in more than a decade. I love pickup volleyball and soccer games. Neither sport is an individual effort, so on its face, these games are opportunities to practice teamwork. Right? Not quite. Yes, you are thrown into a group who have to pull together to win, but nothing rides on the score, and most players participate for either enjoyment, exercise or personal glory. The more competitive (like me) have to get a good spike or a goal or even a great assist to walk away at the end of the game with personal satisfaction. There is no commitment to a group of other individuals, no pain of practice, no community of common experience. Call it a working group, but don’t call it a team.
So if teamwork is my passion, then how can I practice what I believe even in my viewing habits and my leisure activities? For starters, I guess I’ve got to join a league. That’s going to be difficult, given the travel realities for my new job.
My viewing habits may be surprisingly difficult to adjust. To tell you the truth, I can’t think of a single U.S. TV show that promotes teamwork. America is built on individualism, and our stories support the myth of personal glory and effort. Every group has to have a hero. Can you think of a TV show that glorifies teamwork? Thinking back, perhaps the A-Team? Movies are a bit more common. The Dirty Dozen? Apollo 13 was a good one.
What are your favorite team movies? What about TV? Someone out there needs to redeem that medium for me.