Now that we’re a week or so past Election Day, and after such a long, mean spirited and truly divisive campaign season, I’m a little concerned about our two political parties playing nicely with one another. In order to accomplish things for the greater good, our country’s leaders must come together as a team. If each party, and the individuals within, would focus on their own strengths and allow the other to compensate for their weaknesses, and vice versa, we could have a United States of America again. That’s a big if. Teamwork is the key.
Except for throwing trash into a wastebasket from a great distance, I’ve never been great at anything. I have owned important segments of a larger ability, but I could never, by myself, put together a complete assembly of skills that were all mine, and better than anyone else’s. Any success that I have ever enjoyed in life has come from being part of a team.
In football, to be a great wide receiver, one must have courage, speed, agility, strength, and an ability to catch a football. When I was in high school, I could argue that I had better hands than any receiver on my football team, but that was the only ‘good ball player’ component that I owned. I was so slow of foot that I eluded any success as an athlete. However, I didn’t elude the full contact, soul destroying, ancestor crunching, body blows of a guy nicknamed ‘Bonehead’, or a guy named Tim Flanagan (a future University of Miami football team standout). Four days a week, during practice, these guys banged non-verbal reminders into my head and shoulders of just how overmatched, and under talented I truly was…and they were my friends. The guys that didn’t like me made it even worse. Things like that will take the football playing heart out of you. I was no Rudy.
But I survived it, and learned things from it, and I helped give Tim, and Bonehead, and a handful of other great football players the confidence they needed to take their skills to the next level. You’re welcome guys! I love football, I’ve loved it since the first time I put on a pair of shoulder pads and snatched a ball out of the air. But the first time my friend Tim literally knocked those shoulder pads off of me, I kind of hated it a little bit too.
I have played guitar since I was about 11 years old, and I learned the basics very quickly, the rudimentary parts of guitar playing came easily to me. Then one day, after a couple of years of playing, I walked into my room, and my brother had my guitar, and the attention of two of our cutest neighborhood girls, demonstrating how he had worked out the chords and that classic intro to Sweet Home Alabama. We grew up in a very small house, I would have noticed if he had been laboring over this piece of rock and roll gold, recording it off of the radio on our cassette deck, and then day in and day out trying to match up with the song. No, it didn’t work like that for him. Once a song is in his head, I think he can hear it precisely, and play it over and over again. So then, with the song in his head, pretty much the first time he held the guitar in his hands, and strummed a D chord, he had it figured out. This was a moment when I realized that I didn’t get it. Both of my brothers just intuitively ‘get’ music; I don’t. I struggle with rhythm, hand speed, tone and timbre, and simply remembering chord changes, I pretend to think that I’ll get better at it, but down in the catacombs of my being, I know that I just don’t have it. But I have a couple of nice guitars, and playing those guitars can bring me a lot of joy – to a certain point; then after I pass that point, my guitar is just another reminder that I’m not very good at something I love.
Don’t even get me started on golf. I suck at everything I do.
Except, not really. I suck at parts of everything I do. Understanding that as an individual you might not have all the answers is the first part of becoming a team player.
Thanks to Tim, Bonehead, and my brothers, I’m really good at looking at someone else’s strengths, figuring out a way to borrow them without diminishing them, combining them with what I do well, and then making things work. When you’re not very good at anything, you don’t mind sharing it.
When playing my guitar is no longer any fun, because I see and hear my weakness as a musician, I bribe my daughter into accompanying me with her angelic voice. I don’t know if she’s any good or not, I never will…she’s my daughter, she always sounds good to me. Playing a guitar and listening to her sing brings me joy. My historical shortcomings as an athlete don’t mean a thing when I’m tossing a football with my son, or my wife, or if we’re all shooting hoops together. The joy of the activity is greater than the reality of my limitations. My family is my team.
Even with my attempts as a writer, my poor grammar and sentence structure are a source of irritation to me. What takes you about 5 minutes to read, takes me 6 or 8 hours to write. However, my literary foible is often times hidden by my wife’s editing; The Large Man Chronicles would be quite small without her help. I write about life’s journey, love and beers, and the beautiful rear ends of waitresses who serve that love and those beers. I send my little Missus a semi-coherent MS Word doc on a Wednesday night, and on Thursday afternoon I have a piece of work that I’m not ashamed of. I shudder with embarrassment when I think of all the love letters that I sent to her during our courtship, and how she must have wanted to take out that red, felt tipped pen, do her corrections, and send them back to me with a note at the top saying, “Try Again!” or “Huh??” and that little frowny-face thing that second grade teachers should have trademarked before they became so popular in email exchanges. But as poorly as those messages of eternal love were put together, she saw the fiery heart that lay beneath the dangling participles, and the over use of ellipses. She knew she needed someone to love her with the passion of a serial killer; so maybe…just maybe, she could help with my spelling and grammar, or at the very least overlook it, in exchange for a lifetime of adventure.
Her strengths + my passion – my shortcomings / (nothing) = now I’m a writer. This is one of the best examples of teamwork.
With the exception of Olympic diving, wrestling, and maybe orgasms, very few great things are accomplished all alone. In my day job, I have never closed a deal without the help of Jerry, Heather, Andy, Michelle, Mike, and an entire team of engineers and manufacturing people by my side, but they rarely make the headlines…I’m usually out front puffing my chest, and waving our company flag.
A couple of Chronicles ago, I bragged about my friend Dave’s excellent work with our high school grad golf tournament…but he would be the first to tell you that it wouldn’t happen without the hard work and tireless dedication of Jane, Carmen, Karen, Lea, Suzette, Joanna, Richard, Kevin, the sponsors, the folks at the golf course, and so on… and on. You don’t hear much about Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the two ‘other’ astronauts, but Neil Armstrong had those dudes and a ton of NASA engineers by his side when he when he made history. Dave and Neil Armstrong are a lot alike…story for another time.
Some time ago, (this is absolutely honest and true) I had an argument about teamwork, and being a team player with a very good friend. This is a guy who is good at everything he does, and he pretty much always has been. When I explained to him that he “…could be a better teammate if you would try, just a little, to help some of the weaker players on our team. The benefit is that we’ll all enjoy more success – including you.”
His response was, “I’m the ultimate team player, Dude. (He often called me, dude) I’m the best at everything we do; therefore I do my job better than anyone else can do it. I make the team better because I’m the best guy on the team. It begins and ends right there. That’s teamwork. You think being a team player is helping someone out, because you can’t do anything on your own.So being a team player helps you, but it doesn’t help me.”
“Yeah, but it helps the team.”
“I help the team by being the best on the team, therefore, I’m a great team player” were his final words on the subject.
I never got through to my friend, and maybe when you’re great at everything, it’s hard to grasp the concept. I’ve lost touch with him, last I heard, he was running for some kind of public office.
I’ll leave you with two quotes, from two of my all-time favorite athletes: Michael Jordan, and Tim Flanagan.
“Talent wins games; teamwork and intelligence wins championships” ~ Michael Jordan
“BRO! You’re really slow. Did that hurt?” ~ Tim Flanagan
Thanks for reading.