Wednesday, February 1, 2012

giants, patriots, and revenge

In 2007 the New England Patriots won 16 consecutive games in the regular season. They then won their first two games in the playoffs making the Patriots the only team ever to have a record of 18-0. The Patriots met the NY Giants in the superbowl and the Giants, to the surprise of almost everyone, defeated the Patriots in the championship game. The upset put the kibosh on what would have been a perfect season undermining all that the Patriots had accomplished during their previously remarkable year. It was a stunning loss.

Now four years later the Giants will play the Patriots again for the championship in the superbowl. A few nights ago some pundits were shmoozing on a local Boston tv broadcast and were discussing whether revenge would be a motivating factor in this game. The prevailing sentiment on the show and elsewhere has been that, no, revenge is not a factor because only a handful of Patriots in 2011 were on that team that lost the perfect season to the Giants in 2007.

The pundits don't get it.

Revenge will be a motivating factor in this game and it does not matter that there are only five or six players who will play on Sunday that were on the previous team.

The entity that is called the Patriots is more than the members of the current team. And this is the case for the Giants and every other team in every professional sport. A team carries with it, its history.

In organizational communication studies people examine what is called organizational identification. This refers to the extent to which members of an organization identify with the culture of that organization. A person joins and becomes socialized into the organization. At some point an employee, group or team member ceases to refer to the organization as "they" but starts to say "we". "This is the Patriot way. We do things this way here." Of course, people can reject the cultural values of an organization and then continue to talk with disdain about a group as they.

However, winners on football teams, (and successful companies) tend to have group members who have assimilated and enjoy identifying with pride. A new player on a team, once assimilated, assumes the passion of the team's fans, the cultural values of the squad, and the team's history.

Rest assured that when say, Danny Woodhead, a running back on the Patriots watches how Eli Manning in 2007 drove the Giants down the field for the winning touchdown, he feels that Manning scored on "us" even though Woodhead was still in college when that game was played. It might not be voiced by the Patriot players, but they want to win in part to rectify what occurred in 2007 in the same way that Patriot fanatics will want revenge when the game begins.

My father writes a bit about what he calls the collective subconscious that groups have and, of course, the members of that group have. Why do young Hatfields hate the McCoys when nobody recalls the reason for the original dispute? They do so because they have, certainly for worse not for better, become a Hatfield and, well, Hatfields hate the McCoys.

Sport rivalries are not analogous, of course, to ethnic or international conflicts.

Yet the point here is that people do not divorce themselves from the groups to which they feel, or may in fact be, naturally tied to.

I do not know who will win the game on Sunday, but if victorious Danny Woodhead and the 25 plus players who were not playing for the Patriots when the perfect season was punctured in 2007 will feel a sense of redemption. They will feel as if "we got them back."

1 comment:

  1. Great observation . I'm aboard whenever the Giants are in the Superbowl. And the Giants that come to mind first are YA Tittle, Sam Huff, Rosey Brown, and Del Shofner. And Johnny come latelies like Fran Tarkenton, Homer Jones, and Tucker Fredericson. But I do love the way Eli throws a pass and the receivers make it happen. Go Giants. PS Zeke, I hope you're not traitor- I mean Patriots fan