Monday, March 07, 2005

Decentralized, or disfunctional?

Today's NYT carries a rather interesting article on team social dynamics and what "works" best. The author writes that:
Evidence from personality profiles and from studies of military, corporate and space flight crews suggests that looser ties between group members can be a strength, if the team includes individuals who can generate collective emotion when needed.
I suppose that can be true. The trouble is, the author uses the New York Yankees as his "example" of the above. Arguing in the paragraph that came before that one:
But social scientists who have studied group performance under pressure say that often it is decentralized groups (like the Yankees) that prove more resilient than strongly connected ones (like the Red Sox); they are better able to weather outside criticism and internal quarrels.
And right there is the problem with the assertion. Internal quarrels. And the Yanks inability to really get beyond them. Let's be honest, folks...last year's team melted down long before they actually blew the ALCS to the Sox. Last year's team was a walking timebomb, and in hindsight...is anyone really surprised that they collapsed in epic and spectacular fashion? I think the only surprise is that they came close to not collapsing.

Articles like this are what sometimes frustrates me about the usually very good NYT Sports section - the blatant search for a way to make the Yankees look palatible. I'm not certain there's a point to that, since only Yankees fans are going to read the article and say "Exactly!" while everyone else will read it and say "No way." Look - the Yankees are perhaps the single most polarizing sports team in America. One either loves the team, or hates them. There isn't much of an inbetween or middle-ground when it comes to that team, and there probably never will be - whereas there are plenty of people who neither love nor hate the Red Sox (or the Mets, for that matter). There are a couple of teams in other leagues who come close to the Yankees in terms of "love 'em or hate 'em" - the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Lakers are, IMO, the only teams that even come close. The point is (and yes...I have a point)...the article struck me as something that cannot really be proven (like most of what passes for sociology) and has plenty of counterarguments. Like the fact that the Yankees haven't won a single thing since they lost their "family" aspect which existed in the late 90's and early 00's....losing to teams that had a much larger sense of family and togetherness than the more 'corporate' New Yorkers. Not having players like Joe O'Neil and Scott Broscius, to name a couple, has made a big difference.

I'm sure there are plenty of counter-arguments...but this article struck me as by/for Yankee fans as a way of making them try and feel superior, despite everything else. It's another reason why I'll always root for the Mets above the Yankees. The MFYs.

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