Teammates: A Formal ApologyJanuary 3, 2007
The only thing worse than competing against me in any kind of contest where I’m allowed to talk is actually being on my team. Every year for New Year’s Eve several of us gather at the home of our close friends, four families in all. And every year, at some point during the festivities, the board game Taboo makes its way out and we split into teams of husbands vs wives. Now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this game, but basically one guy gets a card, and on that card is a word, like Cactus, and six other words, like Desert, Thorns, Sharp, Needles, Plant & Water, and you have to get the people on your team to know that the word is Cactus WITHOUT you saying any of the verboten clues. You have one minute, and you get a point for every word that your team guesses, and you LOSE a point if you fuck up and say a clue, or if you skip a word ’cause you’re inept.
Well, I don’t want to surprise you with my awesomeness, but it turns out that I’m like the Michael Jordan of avoiding saying certain words while using different words to describe another word entirely. More to the point, I may actually be like the Wilt Chamberlain of this specific skillset, setting the bar at an unapproachable height for all other challengers. I know, I know, sounds like the perfect person to have on your team in a brisk round of Taboo, yes? Well you’d be wrong.
It turns out I can be woefully unforgiving if my teammates aren’t getting the brilliant clues I’m throwing out. Two of the four New Years’s Eve familes I only see on that one night a year, which is funny because we always get along so well. But then I realize what it is – by the end of the evening, my Taboo prowess has shattered the nerves of both my opponents AND the poor bastards who got stuck on my team. And it’s not just Taboo, this pretty much happens in any game. The constant sniping, the undercutting the intellectual prowess of a teammate, etc. It’s not really the best way to build team unity.
So, all this reflection made me think about something my oldest brother said when I was a teenager, about how our dad had tried to steer him away from team sports and into individual competition. My brother was on the UCLA gymnastics team, a Rings specialist (and a freakish physical badass). My dad was, at one point the fastest 100 Meter Butterfly swimmer in the nation in his age class, and still competed in national events well into his late 60s. I wonder if somewhere deep in my childhood the initial foundation of destroying the team to promote oneself was consciously taught, or if it’s more of a side effect of just being raised to think you’re smarter than other people. On behalf of all my teammates, both in Taboo and in any other games I’ve played, a sincere apology. While you may not be as good as I am (and let’s not kid ourselves: you’re not) in Taboo or Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary or what-the-fuck ever else, it turns out that doesn’t mean it’s okay to call you a dumbass.