Comrades in victory
Teammates make the best friends
Todd Colin Vaughan
Sport is based on love.
Stereotypically, the dominant view of a sports team is an enclosed system of elitist behaviour and big masculine attitudes. You know like the kind of behaviour that includes cat-calling, wearing similar shiny clothing and inappropriate high fives at any time.
However, this may not be entirely true.
While many teams may have the douchebag aura outsiders expect, many other teams have a welcoming camaraderie that promotes creativity and development.
Futhering the point, I’d wager the majority of winning teams have a culture of acceptance, respect and love.
My own experience may provide some insight into this theorem.
In 2005, I warmed the bench for the Hunting Hills Lightning Men’s basketball team out of Red Deer, Alta. That same year that team went on to the provincial championships after defeating the Notre Dame Cougars.
Now, I won’t bore you with the details. Think of every Disney sports movie ever made. Notre Dame was a powerhouse. We were the underdogs.
As my sports memories continue to wash out and I begin pondering events from over half a decade ago, I’ve come to realize why my team won — love.
That team was made up primarily of me and my five best friends. All of us were working on 10-year friendships made up mostly of us either playing, thinking about or practicing basketball.
We all wanted to win something because, well, winning is fun.
The Notre Dame guys wanted to win as well and they were also more talented than we were.
So how did we win when both teams had equal drives?
Victory was predicated on wanting to win for each other. Our caring for each other led us to cutting the nets down at the end of the game.
Pretty mushy for sports, I know. But, this point is important because it may be the key to what winners have and losers don’t.
In the history of sport there have been several examples of teams with similar camaraderie.
The most recent and poignant example would be the Dallas Mavericks’ win over the Miami Heat in last spring’s championship. Like the Notre Dame Cougars, the Heat were heavily favored to win based on superior talent, having three of the best players in the league.
There’s a simple reason the Mavericks won.
In 2006, Dallas was up 2-0 in the finals over the same Miami Heat (minus Lebron James and Chris Bosh). They ended up losing that commanding lead and subsequently blowing the series.
In the four years since then Dallas has had to deal with the title of being choke artists, most namely the two players that remained from that ‘06 team – Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.
Facing that judgment together is perhaps exactly what drove the Mavericks to win in ‘11. They faced their demons and managed to remain together.
Camaraderie led to victory. The ‘Mavs had a host of very good players that believed in something more than the typical basketball mantra of “proving the haters wrong.” They loved the guy beside them.
This camaraderie rewards individuals as well. Sure, there are always personal accolades from scoring and being individually talented. That talent, however, doesn’t guarantee victory.
Allen Iverson, a former NBA guard known mostly for big scoring numbers, was always considered one of basketball’s best players during his time in the league.
In 14 seasons, Iverson never won an NBA title.
Robert Horry, a former NBA power-forward, was hardly known for much other than one thing. In 16 seasons, Horry won seven NBA titles with three teams.
What did Horry do that Iverson could not? He was a better teammate.
Horry was known as one of those locker room guys who didn’t ever have an enemy and would occasionally hit a clutch three-pointer or two. Meanwhile, Iverson was known to be a difficult teammate who typically remained interested in getting his points and moving on.
The simple fact is that Robert Horry was a winner because he loved the guys he was on the court with.
The connection between my own experience, the Dallas Mavericks and Robert Horry is that being a teammate is more important than being talented.
Sport is not about being a douchebag. It’s not about winning at all costs. It’s not about being supremely talented.
It’s about a group of teammates respecting each other and wanting to win for each other.
It’s about contributing what you can and respecting what everyone else has to bring the court, field, rink etc.
Edmonton Oilers: 1981- ‘91
This team was everything a hockey team should be. The team featured Wayne Gretzky, the best offensive player in history; Mark Messier, the best leader in hockey; Grant Fuhr, the best goaltender of the ’80s. “The Boys on the Bus” dominated the decade winning five Stanley Cups.
’92 USA Olympic basketball team
The “Dream Team” was arguably the most dominant team in Olympic history. The team with superstars “His Airness” Michael Jordan, Larry “Legend” Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson rolled over their opponents at the Barcelona Olympics by an average of almost 44 points.
The Detroit Red Wings: ’90s
This team was known for class. The Wings, lead by Stevie Yzerman, won two Stanley Cups and had the best winning percentage of the decade. In an era almost destroyed by trap hockey (re: New Jersey Devils), the Wings managed to have a stellar offensive attack while still staying true to defensive principles.