"There's no I in team," the coach shouted.
"Well, there's also no Q," the players responded.
"Which means what?" the coach demanded.
"Well, there's no IQ, perhaps," the players said.
"Why are you speaking in unison?" the coach asked.
"We are a team," the players said. "We resent your speaking as an individual in order to represent the collective. You tax us with workouts, but there should be no taxation without representation."
"IQ in this instance stands for Imbecile Quotient," said the coach.
"Says you," said the players. "Let's talk about your I for a minute. You say there's no I in team. But are you erasing I from the language? I is also the initial of the Individual. Are you erasing the individual? Think of the word, 'kiss.' There is an I in 'kiss,' right?"
"Right," the coach allowed.
"Well, in a kiss each kisser remains an individual, each signs on, and has to feel the kiss, but also when the kiss is over they go back to being an individual, right?" The players said.
"You are making my point. In a kiss, each player melts into a fine union in which the two partners anticipate one another's motions. They align with one another. In short, they become a team." The coach stood back rather proudly. He had not bossed the players, but had retained his control over the talking points.
"So you're not going to drop the I from the language?" The players asked. They wanted to be certain of the coach's intentions.
"No, I will keep all the letters of the alphabet," the coach said. "Let no letter be left behind."
"Well," the players said, advancing the argument. "Prostitutes don't kiss. It's quite individual, and requires a lot of intimacy. We, ahem, are not really like that on this team. But we are willing to learn more about emotional intelligence, so long as you are willing, as well."
The coach took a step back and pawed the ground with his foot.
"If I stands for individual, and isn't in team, what do the letters in team stand for?" He looked playful.
"A is for aardvark," the players responded. "And for animal, and attitude adjustment. Are you willing to go back and forth on the attitude adjustment part?"
"What do you mean?" the coach asked, sensing insurrection.
"Let's say that T stands for Time. And M stands for the many. E stands for excellence. You see, we are very much on the same page with you, coach." The players said. "When you spoke about the I in team, we had begun to sense we were dealing with a communist dictator who tries to control feedback loops with PR."
The coach looked confused. "Go on," he said.
"It is rather Orwellian to hijack language and excise vowels, or to give them new meanings! There is no I in team! This is clever. But we could just as easily say there is no C or D in team. This means no communist dictator. The I could just as easily stand for It, as in 'It Takes a Village.'"
"You can't make one letter stand for so many words!" The coach objected.
"We can make it mean anything we want," the players said. "We are the authors of our lives, and thus the authority is ours. LANGUAGE belongs to us. That was the point of the LANGUAGE poets."
"That was NOT the point of the LANGUAGE poets," the coach objected. "I knew many LANGUAGE poets and you are not LANGUAGE poets. LANGUAGE poets argued that the language speaks us. It's a thought that came out of Lacan and Wittgenstein among others. There was never a sense that the INDIVIDUAL could control language in the LANGUAGE poets."
"Then why did they sign their books as individuals?" The players asked, confused.
"We are living in a system that is still capitalist, and capitalism is individualistic," the coach said. "But we are moving toward communism, in which we will accept the collective nature of language. Ultimately all books will be written and signed by the collective."
"We are not moving toward communism," the players said. "We demand a space for the individual! A team is only as intellectually strong as each player. We demand the right to not merely follow orders, but to have our own authority, our own risks, our own alley oops and behind the back passes. You can't legislate from the bench. That's groupthink."
"Sometimes we have to see that the a in team for instance takes the leadership of the e, as in dipthongs the second vowel is silent if the first vowel is long. I still insist that you are an extension of me, the coach. 'I' still exists, as in 'I call the tune.'"
"We," on the other hand, said the players, "Believe that you have some freaking unbelievable nerve. What good are silent players, or supporting players, when you are the true star, the light that shines from above. God gave us intelligence to do as we wish. Now you propose to take it away, and do all our planning for us?"
"Not all," the coach suggested, moving sideways and folding his arms behind his back while sweeping the ground before him with his shoe while holding his tongue to one side of his lip. He wondered if he would be able to come out on top of the players.
"In a democracy every person is accountable for their actions which means that every person's self-image is on the line at every moment. With responsibility like that, we have to also have our own agency to protect ourselves from bad coaching. You're not a bad coach. But there are some bad coaches. Some get their players creamed in bad matchups. It's like what the president and the Secretary of State did to Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi. Stevens warned he was outmatched and the coaches didn't listen. Then they pretended that someone else was responsible. Now we say that Benghazi should become a code word for to scapegoat and cover one's ass while denying the truth to the polity in order to finesse the electoral process."
"Boys, don't use bad words such as 'ass' when talking with your superiors," the coach said, letting his hair fall about and beginning to comb it down. "Benghazi can also mean to redistribute responsibility away from ourselves and toward others. The i at the end of Benghazi means to never locate an individual, but to hide it behind a lot of incomprehensible verbiage, to insist that there was a collective process at stake, and that no individual ever said, 'the buck stops here.' With myself as the coach, you will never have that problem. When I hurt you, or make a mistake, I will step right up to the cameras and say so."
[At this point, they all join in a chorus line, turn toward the audience, and recite the following couplet]:
"Each fears the other is a control freak, but
Cooperation and not conflict is what we seek."