Team vs Player

During a recent NFL Playoff weekend, when the Vikings were doing battle with the Cowboys, Joy mentioned that the Cowboys had, yet again, been referred to as “America’s Team”, and wondered why.  So, I did a little checking.

According to Wiki:

The nickname originated with the team’s 1978 highlight film, where the narrator opens with the following introduction:

“They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team.”

The term is recognized and often used by media outlets, including ESPN,  Yahoo!, HBO Sports, and Sports Illustrated

That got me thinking.  Not about the Cowboys being “America’s Team”, because clearly, that would be the Bears.  But about the whole concept of being a team fan vs. being a player fan.

Back when that was happening, in 1978, I wasn’t into football.  Heck, I was still crawling around on the floor, neighing and drinking water out of a bowl that my mom put out for me (do NOT ask).  But I do remember the name Staubach from then, and Landry, but not much else about individuals.  It was all about the teams back then.  And even after I became aware of football early in high school, and through the ’85 “Monsters of the Midway” Bears.  There were good players, even stars, but none stood higher than the team.  And all regularly credited the team for their success.  I remember that from those ’85 Bears.  They were a unit, led by a punk, and they were a terror on the field.  But they were a team.  And after, when the members started to leave, the team was no longer.  And that cohesion was gone.

Now, it’s all about Favre, and Urlacher, the Manning Brothers, Tony Romo, Ben Rothlisberger, Adrian Peterson.  That guy Chad Ochocinko.  God help me with THAT one.  And Terrell Owens.

Favre is the perfect example of the individual taking the fans away from the team.  Not to draw anything away from him – he’s a legendary quarterback, an icon who deserves all the praise that he gets.  And he’s cute.  But when did fan loyalty switch from the team to the player?  Did it start with Free Agency?  Did it start when players started hiring their own PR firms?  I really don’t know.

I do know, though, that it’s not something that I want Josh learning.  I have no problem with him appreciating individual players for their athleticism, their skill, heck, even for their charitable works off the field.  But what I have a problem with is when kids favor players over the team.  My nephew, for years, bled Green and Yellow.  Packers this, Packers that.  We bought him jerseys, heckled him during the traditional whipping of the Pack by the Bears (just leave it alone).  Suddenly, this year, he’s in Purple and Gold, chanting “Go Vikes!!”  I was flabbergasted.  “I thought you were a die hard Pack Fan?”

“Nope,” he replied.  “Favre.”

“What about the team?” I asked.

“Wherever Favre is, that’s my team.”

Interesting.  Football is, and always has been, a team sport.  The quarterback is nothing without a good offensive line to protect him, make holes for his running back.  Without a good defense to hold the other team out of their end zone.  Need proof?  Jay Cutler.  Awesome with the Denver Broncos.  Pathetic with the Chicago Bears.  And the reverse… Kyle Orton struggled with the Bears.  Ran hot and cold.  He went to the Broncos and had a great season.

But now, it seems like it’s all about the player, damn the consequences.  I’m afraid to see what is going to happen down the line, as we get more Ochocinkos and Owens’s and fewer McMahons and Singletarys.

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11 Responses to Team vs Player

  1. SKL says:

    It has been a long time since I followed a football season, and this might be a reason why. When I was a fan, individual players were cool, but only in the context of their teams. It was understood that the only way to have a consistently winning season was to have a well-coordinated team with the right attitude toward teammates. Players have even been fired because they talked too much about “I” and not enough about “we.”

    Yeah, there were a few individuals who were larger than life – the John Elway types. (Never could stand the guy and his bucktoothed grin. But maybe he was a great team player, I don’t know.) But most people didn’t really feel like the whole season rested on the shoulders of one guy.

    It’s a lot more fun to root for a team when you know that if one falls, the others could pick up the ball and keep running.

    But this is largely about the media. If they want it to be all about one person, then that’s what it is, at least for the less serious spectators of the sport (or any sport). Same goes for anything else in life. I haven’t seen an article about autism in years without the name “Jenny McCarthy” being brought into the discussion – even if the original story had no remote connection to that person’s views or experience. It’s sad, because so many people are so easily swayed to the media’s point of view. People today just have to work harder to find out what’s going on and think about what’s important.

    • Joy says:

      I’m laughing at my young love of the old Denver team and your hate of it!! But back in the day, they were a good team and won back to back SB’s. There really don’t seem to be teams like that anymore that play together for their whole career.

  2. Joy says:

    I’m bowing to you Laura. This is a GREAT post. I hadn’t planned on posting it today but figured since it just happened, what the heck?

    I’m not sure why I reacted that way this morning but we were settling in and getting ready to watch the game and they showed a clip of the Cowboys deplaning and referred to them as “America’s Team” and it just rubbed me the wrong way. As far as I’m concerned, there are 32 “America’s Teams.” I don’t really hate that many teams and I’m going to say I’m sorry to JAM right now but I can’t stand the Cowboys JUST BECAUSE of this fact. But I have to say that JAM lives there and is an honest Cowboys fan. I was in Canada once and a friend said to me when I said I couldn’t stand the Cowboys, he thought all Americans loved them since they were “America’s Team” and I straightened him up!!! I just think it’s a huge slap in the face to all the other teams. They are kind of treated like royalty and it just always bugged me.

    As for you question which I think is great is I don’t know. I think now, the way sports are with the free agency and huge money, the majority of players leave for more money. Years ago that just didn’t seem to happen like it does now. I know people who just love a few different teams for whatever reasons. I was born in Buffalo and still have relatives there so have always loved the Bills. Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and that whole crew. I also really loved Denver as a team. They all were always so united with the “Orange Crush” and Elway and his old crew. I don’t think “teams” are that united anymore. Now, I couldn’t even tell you who the Bills QB was or Denver’s. I think it’s really sad and I just love this topic.

    I think the people who stay on a team for a career are truly in it for the game and wish there were more of them.

  3. SKL says:

    Being an old-time Browns fan, Bernie Kosar was that guy you are talking about, Joy – a career Browns player, homegrown – until they fired him. (I think he then went to the Cowboys(?) and got his only SB ring the following year, ironically.) They fired him because the coach didn’t like him for some reason. We fans really didn’t like the coach at all, but whatever. Coach ended up being a SB winner too, later. But yeah, I think part of the problem is that players move around too easily – either they are traded just when they start looking promising, or they move for more money, or they get fired for some reason or other. If they would all work together for a few years, the fans could observe their strengths as a team root for their combinations instead of just one person. I remember how, when the Browns had its best seasons in my lifetime, we were always talking about how well certain members worked together – it was always Mack and Byner, and Sipe was great at knowing when to pass to whom, etc. But it’s hard to get excited about the combinations if you don’t get much chance to observe them together due to the turnover.

  4. Laura says:

    I know I mentioned Urlacher… but I think he’s one of those “old school” guys, and I probably shouldn’t have included him. He’s approaching the end of his 10-year contract with the Bears, and is also our Captain (or one of them).

    With his injury this year, and him riding the bench – I haven’t even seen him! I don’t even know if he’s been at the games. And that makes me sad, because I can remember – again looking back to that ’85 team – when one of the ‘big guys’ got hurt, and they did, there was no question where they were going to be, come game day. Even if they couldn’t ‘pad up’ and play, there they were, sitting on the bench, cheering on their team members. I know it was required, but I really believe that’s where they wanted to be, as well.

  5. I think this whole attitude started when team-members, of any sport, began to think more about the dollar signs than about the team they were with… I’m not familiar with American football teams or players, but I AM a bit familiar with the soccer league in England, and I know well how the players go wherever they’re paid the most and basically they say “to hell” with whatever team they were so supposedly loyal to before! It makes me sad…

  6. Nikki says:

    Money is the biggest thing now. Teams change so much because players are always looking for more money. So many players play for the money and not the game. I think Favre plays because he loves the game. I think the Vikings have a lot of players that play for the love of the game, just like the Twins. They have more heart than money. That makes me love a player, not how much he’s worth. When you have great team comradeship it’s easy to love them as a team. This is why I’m not a fan of the Yankees.

    I still can’t get over what happened yesterday! Pinch me…was it a dream!?

  7. Just a Mom says:

    I have never understood why people follow certain players. To me it’s the team you follow. I take my life in my own hands because I live in Houston but I have always been a Dallas Cowboys fan. Good or bad they are my team. Even when they do stupid things like not play like you want to win a playoff game, they are still my team.

    Joy~ Trust me you have no need to say sorry!

  8. Nikki says:

    My sons favorite player is Darren Sharper. He used to play for the Vikings. We’ve met him and he was thee nicest, most polite gentleman EVER! He has a poster and jersey signed by him…..we have to play against him Sunday! He still is Baileys favorite player and even if he played for his most hated team, he’d still be his favorite player. I don’t know why…he just is!
    As for me….he’s the prettiest football player in the NFL..I will go on record saying that! lol

  9. Sue says:

    I had a whole big thought and as soon as I started typing I forgot it! Ha! I think it has to do with the money also. There are some players that are still team focused, but not many. I’d say the majority is out for me, myself and I b/c they can be since the organizations will pay big bucks for them. I happen to think that the Vikes are playing like a team and have been the last few games. You can see it on the sidelines and you can see it on their faces. Yes, that goes with winning, but to win like they have been you have to work together.

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