There Is No I In Team

The word team does not use the letter ‘I’ when it is spelled out and in most sports the whole team is what is most important, not the individual members.  It is better to work together with others in order to achieve a goal than it is to work alone.  This one-liner phrase which is actually an epigram is frequently used by coaches, players, and even the business world to imply how victory is achieved not by any single individual, but through the players coordinating their efforts together.  Michael Jordan was known to say, ‘There is no ‘i’ in team, but there is in win.’  Others have said, ‘There may be no I in team, but by switching some letters around specifically the M and the E, you can find a me in the word team.’  This letter game can keep going on and on with, “there ain’t no ‘we’, either and there is no ‘u’ either, so shut up!”

Teamwork takes priority over individual achievement, players win as a team and they lose as a team.  Teamwork requires that an individual works for the good of the team, rather than for their own individual goals, so you must drop the personal pronouns.  Nobody wants to work with someone who is wrapped up in their own accomplishments and is always just looking out for themselves.  To work as a team, you need to see yourself as one part of a unit, fulfilling a specific role to reach a bigger goal.

I found a story that says that this phrase was originally used in 1916 by a sports writer.  He drank so much that the keys on his typewriter were always sticking from the Scotch he spilled over them.  One day another writer was working at his desk using this typewriter and he noticed that the story that he was writing was filled with typos, because of these sticky keys.  After correcting the mistakes several times, which in those days meant starting over from the beginning, he finally couldn’t take it anymore and he yelled out, ‘Dammit, it’s T-E-A-M, not T-E-I-A-M.  There’s no ‘I’ in team!’  And like so many phrases that have been coined out of frustration, it just caught on from there.

The general said rally around me because if I go down, then we all go down together.  Vince Lombardi once said, ‘Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’  Helen Keller said, ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’  Babe Ruth said, ‘The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.  Michael Jordan said, ‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.’

People can write in the first person, and they can also use the second- or third-person point of view, as it is just a matter of selecting the proper personal pronoun.  Each ‘person’ has a different perspective, their own point of view, and the three points of view have singular and plural forms as well as three case forms. In the subjective case, the singular form of the first person is ‘I’, and the plural form is ‘we’.  ‘I’ and ‘we’ are in the subjective case because either one can be used as the subject of a sentence.  All writers constantly use these two pronouns when they refer to themselves and when they refer to themselves being with others.  Besides ‘I’ and ‘we’, the other singular first person pronouns include ‘me’ (objective case) and ‘my’ and ‘mine’ (possessive case).  Plural first person pronouns are ‘us’ (objective case) and ‘our’ and ‘ours’ (possessive case).

Written for this week’s One-Liner Wednesday prompt from Linda G. Hill.

10 thoughts on “There Is No I In Team

    1. Walt Whitman wrote, ‘WHAT General has a good army in himself, has a good army; He happy in himself, or she happy in herself, is happy, But I tell you cannot be happy by others, any more than you can beget or conceive a child by others.

      Liked by 1 person

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