Amid the November blues, a reflection on teamwork

Longtime readers of this blog will know that November is not my favorite month, largely due to the dreary weather and the short days, which, combined, keep me indoors way too much.

But the malaise is punctuated, in my life, by a couple of things, which long-term readers may also remember.

One is curling. I find the sport fascinating, playing several games each week myself, and watching others on television.

One thing that strikes me about the sport is how much of a team game it is.

For one shot to be perfectly made, it generally takes all four teammates perfectly playing their role. The thrower must throw it reasonably close to it’s intended destination. The brushers must judge whether it’s heavy, light, or exactly the right weight (speed) to get there, then sweep it so as to guide it to the exact spot. (Incidentally, a throw that is a little light is often the best because the sweepers can make it go further, curl more, or curl less.) The skip calling the play watches the line, calling the sweepers on or off (to affect its path), but also decides whether the called shot can or can’t be made and then whether to switch to “Plan B” (a common occurrence), in which the sweeping calls might be exactly opposite of what they had been for Plan A. All four must coordinate their efforts.

Another antidote to the November blues is the Canadian Football League playoffs and, particularly, the Grey Cup, Canada’s biggest party.

Football is also a huge team sport, with individual roles contrasting much more than any of the other big team sports. (In most sports, although players specialize in one role, they are relatively interchangeable with others (except for goalies, I suppose). Don’t ask a lineman in football, though, to play quarterback, or vice versa.) But each assignment is integral to achieving the team goal.

And one missed assignment can have a catastrophic effect on the outcome.

I watched parts of both the Eastern and Western Conference CFL finals on Saturday. In the East, the Toronto Argonauts, having just come off a brilliant 16-2 season record—only the second such in the League’s history—were beaten by the 11-7 Montreal Alouettes. (Incidentally, the only other 16-2 team, the 1989 Edmonton Eskimos, was also beaten in the Conference finals by the 9-9 Saskatchewan Roughriders—my team—who went on to win the Grey Cup in what has often been touted the greatest football game ever played—but I digress, to gloat a little.)

What happened in the Eastern final was that Toronto committed nine turnovers, with quarterback Chad Kelly, nominated for the League’s Most Outstanding Player award this season (which he’ll likely win on Thursday) throwing four interceptions.

In the Western final the BC Lions lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers largely because of one element of the game, as well. The offensive line couldn’t stop Winnipeg’s dominating pass rush, quarterback Vernon Adams being sacked nine times!

Team sports depend on everyone coming through. Each player has a role; the whole team pays the price when one member or one element comes up short.

And isn’t that the way it is in life, too? None of us is an island; we need one another for a fulfilling life. And for a smooth functioning society, we need a tremendous variety of different skills and professions to operate harmoniously. In modern society we depend on a plethora of highly specialized components operating efficiently together, triaged by each individual consumer. (Governments think they’re doing the triaging but that’s the epitome of delusion.)

Society used to function with many fewer specialists but with a much more cohesive family and clan structure. The range of generalists within that circle supporting one another ensured continuous smooth functioning, insulated from the devastation of the failure of one element or another.

Both the specialized society of today and the community structures of the past reflect the necessity of teamwork in achieving individual life goals and a smoothly functioning society.

So, I suppose getting stuck indoors this dreary season has a third element to punctuate it: it facilitates reflections such as this.

And if that contributes to further reflections on teamwork by my readers, it may even contribute slightly towards a smoother functioning society.

Or at least a momentary escape from “the November effect.”

At least, that’s how I see it . . .