Teamwork is a natural part of the human condition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 8, 2010

The other day covering a prep baseball game, a thought occurred after hearing “get a rip, kid,” “not your pitch, kid,” and “thata babe” for the hundred millionth time.

Somewhere, someplace in the innards of the protein sequences called DNA, there is an instinct for humans to work together as a team to accomplish something of value.

It sounds nuts, but what do humans possess for their defense besides a brain? No claws, unless you count those who don’t cut their fingernails ala Howard Hughes in his later, crazier reclusive years. No thick skin. No horns. Our senses, for the most part, are inferior to most other mammals.

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Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at

We don’t even have fur to keep us warm on chilly nights unless we kill it and skin it first.

So what does mankind have for an equalizer? Our penchant for teamwork. It forced us to communicate and become the social animals we are. Guess smoke signals and cave paintings were the old, old-school Facebook.

Apparently, not all of us were born with this instinct that may or may not dwell in our DNA. Try Keyshawn “Just Throw Me the Damned Ball” Johnson, Chad Ochocinco or any other NFL wideout not named Jerry Rice or Andre Johnson.

Or famous NFL draft bust Ryan Leaf. No team players there.

In the caveman days, killing a great wooly mammoth that would feed the tribe for a year was a huge task that one man couldn’t do alone. They had to develop communication and coordination so they could bring down the big beast.

They probably chanted like those in the dugout.

“Good spear!”

“Way to hurl it, kid!”

“Thata a babe!”

Our cave-dwelling ancestors probably dove into a dogpile after taking down the mighty mammoth. The satisfaction they felt no different after a walkoff home run. There was a task that a group of disparate individuals, molded by strong leadership into a cohesive whole, accomplished together.

This country, especially on the professional sports scene, has always been about the stars. We forget how often the NBA’s leading scorer’s team won the NBA championship, which until the Michael Jordon era, wasn’t often.

But the best teams that boasted the best chemistry where players knew their roles and functioned as a living singular entity were what took home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Or the Lombardi Trophy.

This instinct forms the primary plot of nearly every movie about team sports. Mix in several parts of unruly athletes. Add a coach with strong leadership and a creative way of squelching dissent and focusing individual efforts toward a team goal. The best part is when the team comes together and accomplishes something more than the sum of its parts.

This instinct is as endemic to the human condition as the need for food, shelter, love and Nintendo Wii. Just kidding about the last part. It’s about becoming part of something bigger than yourself. It also makes for long-lasting friendships that will survive long after cleats and bats are retired.

And if that’s either learned or a characteristic that stems from our very core, our DNA, it’s a gift that makes us who we are.

And that’s a good thing.