The Chemistry in Sports Debate – Bad Team Chemistry Limits Success

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

I am guessing that most TSD readers have played sports at some point in life. Maybe it was in high school or maybe it was as far back as little league. Better yet, all of you have been part of some type of “team.” Maybe it was a sports team. Perhaps it was part of a “team” of people at work. It could even be that “team” of people that are trying to work together on a group project in high school or college. No matter what activity you are participating in, isn’t it better to get along with the people you are “working” with? Doesn’t it make things easier for you, and increase the chances for overall success, when you get along with your teammates? You bet it does!

There have been many instances over the years where the inability to get along and the lack of team unity have stalled a team’s chance at greatness. Without even having to do any research, the main situation that comes to mind is the feud between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal during the 2003-2004 season. They publicly bashed each other in the media, while O’Neal dealt with injuries and Bryant dealt with personal matters. Add in the fact that Karl Malone and Gary Payton were literally just thrown into the fire and you have the perfect definition for a team with bad chemistry. Yes, they made the NBA Finals, but they lost to the Pistons and were generally perceived as a failure that season. This was despite having four future Hall of Fame players on the team. Between the feud and not being able to work together on a consistent basis, the Lakers were unable to develop any team chemistry and that possibly cost them a championship.

How many rings does Terrell Owens have, despite being on some pretty talented teams? During the prime of his career, while he was in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas, Owens played on some pretty talented teams. But he often caused rifts on the team with his attitude and his mouth, including the rumored spat between him, Tony Romo, and Jason Whitten towards the end of the 2008 season. Owens was cut following the season, and not coincidentally, the Cowboys won the NFC East and won a playoff game this past season for the first time since 1996.

Another example that may develop this year revolves around the fact that Milton Bradley is no longer with the Chicago Cubs. There is anticipation that the Cubs will be a better team and have better team chemistry without the circus that is Milton Bradley. Whether it was public dust ups with coaches, the media, or even the fans, Bradley was always causing some drama and was perceived as a “cancer” in the clubhouse. Thus, the Cubs missed the playoffs. Cubs fans can only hope the Cubbies will be better this year without Bradley.

On the other side, we saw what happened once Alex Rodriguez publicly cleared the air regarding his use of steroids. The Yankees played better, appeared to get along better, and, to the delight of Babe Ruthless, won a championship for the first time since 2000.

We all learned in high school chemistry that certain elements do not mix. When they do not mix, the “process” is not completed. That simple concept translates to sports. I have listed examples from the three major sports of where the lack of team chemistry affected the play on the field or court. When players and attitudes do not fit together, like pieces of a puzzle, the chances of success are severely damaged. But, if the chemistry flows naturally, the chances of a championship are increased.

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