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Smells Like Team Spirit

by Baker Lee • in
  • FOH at Large
  • June 2018
• Created: June 6, 2018

Sports fans enjoy watching a great team and, with any luck, that team just happens to be the one to which said sports fan is attached. Unfortunately — or not — there are usually more than one great teams at any given time, which is why the competition to win it all and be the number one team is so intense. Even when a team has a great season, they can be bested by a lesser team in the playoffs if that “lesser” team finds its stride and gels into greatness.

For example, consider the Boston Red Sox’ inconceivable comeback over the Yankees in 2004, which inevitably led the Sox to their World Series win over the Atlanta Braves and the breaking of their 86 year curse. As a Yankee fan, I was shocked (and stunned) when my team was crushed by a mortal enemy. Although, at the same time, I couldn’t help but marvel at watching the Boston team rising to its potential and achieving greatness. Of course, unless one was a Yankee fan, there were no tears being shed for The Bronx Bombers, considering that most baseball fans believe the Yanks have had more than their share of great teams. Even though the Yanks lost that one, we should remember the Yankees’ great comeback in game four of the 1996 World Series to then go on and beat the Atlanta Braves in six games to overcome their own 18-year lack of greatness.

In all fairness, a shout out should be given to the 1986 Mets, the 2016 Chicago Cubs and — to break from baseball — the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles football franchise that was added to the roster of amazing success stories. Greatness always deserves a book and many have been written about these remarkable success stories. Analysis of player acquisitions, individual players and their statistics, front office management and on-field coaching all get examined and evaluated. Individual relationships and the locker room atmosphere are scrutinized and put into perspective to show how each team rose up like the Phoenix from the ashes of their predecessors to bask in the sunshine of greatness.

There are also those teams that remain great from one year to the next, but — regardless of their staying power — even great teams can lose their grip on greatness and fall back to something less in stature. When the same teams fail to achieve their former brilliance merely a year after scaling the heights of glory, a concerned cry goes out by the greatest minds in sports as to what went wrong and how to remedy the situation. Yet despite the brilliant suggestions stating the obvious, there is never an easy solution as to making the team great again.

‡‡         The Audio Side of Life

There are vast differences between building a sports team and a touring audio team. However, the concept is similar in either case, as the idea for both is to have a smooth running organization made up by professionals who are proficient at their given job. If someone on the team is a weak link, it affects the whole team and the final output, but a great lineup will have other members that step up to help out at a time when another teammate is slumping. While it’s easy to draw analogies from sports examples, there are instances of team-building in the corporate world, where corporations hire outside team building consultants that plan dinners, outings, retreats and events to ensure that the productivity of any given group of people is bolstered by formulating a team bond.

For the most part, it would seem that team-building consultants for a touring show would not be required, considering that the team outing is the tour itself, where everyone is living together, eating together, hanging out together and partaking in activities such as setting up, running and striking a show on a daily basis. Team bonds are built by doing what we do, and it seems implausible that there would be a need to go on a retreat to engage in interactive social or sporting events to build team morale. After all, what’s a better team-builder than driving all night in a bus bunk with ten other members of the crew and arriving on site to start a workday that could run from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. — only to get back on the bus for the drive to the next gig to start all over again? Checking out the local sights on off days can help in forming strong team bonds that are only reinforced by that special camaraderie created from evenings imbibing in the hotel bar or sampling the indigenous cuisine in local restaurants.

‡‡         Great Teamwork = Great Results

While the social bonding is of great importance for team-building on the road, it’s still the work that makes or breaks the team. Of course, not all tours are equal, but regardless of the size of the touring company, if someone isn’t pulling their weight, then the team is less-than-great. A great team works quickly and effectively to ensure that sound checks are on time and that union time schedules are met to avoid costly overtime. From the tour manager on down, everyone has to produce to make the team great. If schedules are off, then the team is off. If the monitors aren’t rung out properly, then front of house engineers can’t suitably do their job. If the production manager fails to advance the show properly, problems will arise and keep the team from being great.

Great teams are winners, and in the life of a touring crew, winning means getting in and out on time and having a show that looks and sounds great. Like baseball, touring has a long season, and while some tours may start off strong, others may take a few shows or weeks to really come together. Other than the required skills that each crew member brings to the table, the tours that finish on top usually possess a certain je ne sais quoi — an underlying indescribable quality of spirit that binds each individual crew member to the next and allows the team to work together as one to make events happen efficiently and with very little drama — much like a beautifully executed double play.

Illustration by Andy Au


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