Disband the Team

Is The Scrapbook the only one who’s grown weary of the word team used where it doesn’t belong—outside the world of sports? For a year or two after Olympic teams were called Team USA or Team France, it was cute to refer to your company or office as “team” this or that. Then politicians got in on the action—Gov. Nikki Haley called her staff “Team Haley,” and so on.

We had hoped it would go away, but it hasn’t. A few instances from just the last few days: A piece on CNN.com—“Giuliani says Trump team will respond to Mueller about interview later Wednesday”—speaks of “Trump’s legal team” and “the president’s team” and also of “Mueller’s team.” A piece in the Jerusalem Post speaks of the White House’s “Israeli-Palestinian peace team,” the president’s “Middle East peace team,” and the White House’s “policy team.” The ever-capable Gerald Seib concludes a column in the Wall Street Journal by noting that “the president has a team that seems devoted to letting Trump be Trump.” A piece on cybersecurity in the Washington Post notes that the “Trump team” isn’t doing enough, but that fortunately “security teams of U.S. companies” are doing a lot. In the Seattle Times we read of a “team” responsible for homeless camp removals: “The team will grow to approximately 30 permanent members.”

Sometimes the word can have a nice passive-aggressive edge to it, too. In his new book World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, Franklin Foer recalls writing a piece for the New Republic, which he then edited, that sharply criticized Amazon. Foer received a terse email indicating that the retail giant had decided to yank its support for the magazine. “It was signed,” he recalls, “Team Amazon.”

Why is everything now a “team”? We wonder if it’s an attempt to describe the otherwise dreary goings-on of politics, government, and corporate America in the more lighthearted language of sports. Maybe it’s the typical American habit of thinking every human interaction has to have a winner and a loser. Or maybe Americans have become so prosperous and entertainment-obsessed that we think of everything as a game.

Whatever the reason, why not call offices and companies and agencies and delegations by those nouns and not by the word team? Teams are for fun, and we’re pretty certain that nobody on Special Counsel Mueller’s “team” is having fun. Enough with team already.

Signed, Team Scrapbook.

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