There’s no i in team. You win as a team, you lose as a team. E pluribus unum.
The sacredness of being team-first, vs. me-first, is instilled in us from preschool to…well, death. Whether playing dodgeball or sitting in corporate team-building exercise, the importance of putting the group first instead of the individual is stressed, hammered and shouted.
There’s a good reason that a coach, boss—any person in charge of a "team"—wants you to be the part of a sum. It works. Teamwork, a cooperative effort to achieve a common goal, is almost always more effective and efficient than a group of individuals acting only in their self-interests.
Without teamwork, an offensive line can’t block, infielders can’t “turn two,” the penalty kill will do no such thing—it wins games, but doesn’t always fully showcase talent.
Where this deeply valued ideal falls apart is in the world of professional sports. Not because most pros are selfish—at every level, most people want to be a part of a team and some resist—but because it’s a business.
No matter how much a pro player wants to win and be a part of a team, or a franchise does, ultimately, money is a third partner. And today, money is often a partner that behaves irrationally. So, we live in an era of free agency, when pros expect—and deserve—to get the fair market value for their talent…or more.
The result? Players who spend a decade with the team who drafted them, or gave them their first opportunity to make an impact, eventually leave or are let go (or a little of both). There is always blame to go round, so it’s rarely amicable.
These are the ugliest breakups in sports.