Team Work

Some sports writing has useful ways for thinking about team work that is certainly applicable to political organization. The following are selections taken from Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball.

“Lots of times, on our team, you can’t tell who the best player in the game was. ‘Cause everybody did something good. That’s what makes us so good. The other team has to worry about stopping eight or nine people instead of two or three. It’s the only way to win. The only way to win. That’s the way the game was invented.” (38-39)

“Russell: ‘By design and by talent the Celtics were a team of specialists, and like a team of specialists in any field, our performance dependent on individual excellence and how well we worked together.'” (48)

“Bradley: ‘A team championship exposes the limits of self-reliance, selfishness and irresponsibility. One man alone can’t make it happen; in fact, the contrary is true: a single man can prevent it from happening. The success of the group assures the success of the individual, but not e other way around.'” (49)

“Russell: ‘Star players have an enormous responsibility beyond their statistics — the responsibility to pick their team up and carry it. You have to do this to win championships — and to be ready to do it when you’d rather be a thousand other places. You have to say and do the things that make your opponents play worse and your teammates play better. I always thought that the most important measure of how good a game I’d played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.'” (49)

“It’s much harder to keep a championship than to win one. After you’ve won once, some of the key figures are likely to grow dissatisfied with the role they play, so it’s harder to keep the team focused on doing what it takes to win. Also, you’ve already done it, so you can’t rely on the same drive that makes people climb mountains for the first time; winning isn’t new anymore. Also there’s a temptation to believe that the last championship will somehow win the next one automatically. You have to keep going out there game after game.'” (50)

“…winning becomes a state of mind, an obligation, an expectation; in the end, an attitude. Excellence. It’s a rare chance to play with the best, to be the best. When you have it, you don’t want to give it up. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun…” (52)

“Even with all the talent, the mental sharpness, the fun, the confidence and your focus honed down to winning, there’ll be a level of competition where all that evens out. Then the pressure builds, and for the champion it’s a test of heart…Heart in champions has to do with the depth of your motivation, and how well your mind and body react to pressure. It’s concentration — that is, being able to do what you do under maximum pain and stress.” (52)


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