I have been thinking a lot lately about connection. And disconnection. It is one of the recurring themes discussed in my coaching sessions. The need to connect. The isolation that comes from disconnection. With so much of business being international, many people move far from home for their careers. This can lead to feelings of disconnection. For example, I am from the USA, but I have been living abroad now for more years than I am willing to admit to. In some ways, I feel very disconnected from my American culture and the disconnect increases over time. This makes me sad, sometimes. Drifting so far away from your roots is… uncomfortable.
And the thing about disconnection is that the more disconnected you feel, or are, the fewer points for connection you can find. So, it becomes a vicious cycle. How do I connect? With whom? Where do I even start a dialogue?
And then… Well, thank you Green Bay Packers!
I mean for me, it is the Green Bay Packers. You should feel free to “insert the team of your choice which plays the sport of your choice” here. For me, the Packers press all the right buttons. They are my hometown team. In fact, the Green Bay Packers are the only community-owned major league professional sports team left in the US. They are also the third-oldest franchise in the NFL. I was born in Texas, but I really grew up in Green Bay. My mother is originally from Green Bay. My parents actually live just down the road from Curly Lambeau’s cottage on The Bay. My best friend through grade school and high school still lives in Green Bay. My point here is that if I have roots anywhere in the States anymore, they would mostly be in Green Bay. Also, Green Bay is where I learned to watch and love sports, particularly American Football, but really sports in general. So the Packers are clearly my team and learning to be a sports fan in Green Bay is not for the weak or timid. In fact, I would say that Packers fans (a.k.a. Cheeseheads) are a breed apart. It takes a special kind of dedication to watch football in an open stadium, in Wisconsin, in December (or January, or even sometimes in October!)
But I digress, because apart from dedication, Green Bay Packers fans taught me how to connect through sport. When the Packers lost more than they won, which was the case the ENTIRE time I was growing up, we consoled each other and made plans to rebuild for next year. When they won more than they lost, the jubilation, adulation, joy and pride were palpable. I mentioned pride in relation to winning, which is perhaps where Packers fans standout… because the pride during the “dark days” was also palpable. Being a proud Packers fan really means standing by the team, win or lose. There are no fair-weather fans at Lambeau Field!
And now after all these years, the Packers remain a fantastic way of connecting with people when I am back in the US. Somehow, in a world that is increasingly polarized, it is (thankfully) still OK to agree to disagree about sport. We can disagree over which NFL team is the best (obviously, the Packers) or who is the best quarterback in the league (clearly, Aaron Rodgers), and still have a friendly conversation. In fact, we regularly see players compliment their opponents on how well they played. Perhaps we all need to take a page out of this playbook and apply it to other areas of our lives…
Sport, at its best, allows us to see beyond our differences while at the same time tapping into what we have in common – a love of the game, a shared appreciation of the beauty of sport well played. Jose Mourinho called soccer the “beautiful game” and I love that love of a sport! As a Barça fan as well, I don’t disagree with Mourinho. However, anyone who has watched Aaron Rodgers throw a Hail Mary down the field for a last-minute touchdown to save the game, has also seen beauty.
So, sport, which gives me so much in my life, gives me connection as well. How can I not be a fan? For me, it is the Green Bay Packers that remain an amazing way of starting the connection conversation when I am back in the US. But it could be any sport, any team, any book, piece of art or hobby for someone else. The important thing is finding that key way to start a connection. Identifying some way to get your “foot in the door” is SO important.
And for that, and the other reasons above, I am so thankful to the Packers as a team and as an institution. They give me connection to a part of myself that I can struggle to connect to. So…
Go Pack Go!!
This year, we are Super Bowl bound! I just feel it…