America, Where’s Your Team Spirit?


I’ve been a sports fan my entire life, but recently my interest has waned. The money is really getting out of hand, and even in team sports the focus has shifted from collective vision and shared leadership to individual star power and inflated egos. The magic moments so celebrated in the best sports movies seem, increasingly, a phenomenon of the past. Now, it’s all brand deals and $10 million trades. Moneyball!

All that said, I was a little surprised with how invested I was while watching the Ryder Cup this year, played at my dear and very, very distant uncle Marco Simone’s course in Rome, Italy. I’ve long enjoyed watching golf, but my interest this year was based on what I perceived to be the difference in team spirit between the American and European squads. While the players on both teams are very skilled and, for the most part, likable as individuals, I couldn’t help but notice a difference in fundamental philosophy.

My read was that the Europeans’ approach leading up to and throughout the tournament epitomized the essence of teamwork. Their interactions, interviews, and emotions possessed a depth of caring, collaboration, and interdependence that I didn’t sense from the United States team.

On the American side, Patrick Cantlay made headlines for playing hatless during the tournament, allegedly to protest the fact that golfers don’t get paid to play in the Ryder Cup. (Cantlay has made upwards of $60 million over the course of his career). The ensuing “Hat-gate” went on to encourage some wise-guy showboating from Cantlay’s purported teammate, Justin Thomas, who tipped an imaginary hat to the crowd after making a long putt.

We in the United States talk a big game about teamwork, but our strong values of independence and rugged individualism often make it difficult to “walk the talk.”

The disappointment I experienced watching Team USA is one I also feel when I observe leaders who love to talk teamwork and leadership and yet, when given the chance to share the wealth, find it difficult to look out for anyone other than number one. While I hold them responsible, I don’t blame them. They have been told their whole lives that this is what they are supposed to do. They earned it, they paid their dues, and now they are entitled to the spoils. All of them.

When is our consciousness going to really change? When will we stop talking about raising all boats and start to make the systemic changes in our companies and our communities that actually make things better for everyone? Hopefully soon. In 2025, the Ryder Cup returns to America, and I hope we are prepared to make a more honorable showing.

If you’re interested in increasing organizational productivity by cultivating true team spirit, send me an email at I’d be happy to help.

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