Among corporate motivational phrases, it's one of the most hackneyed, and the most mocked: "There is no 'I' in 'Team.'" Of course, this is technically true in literal terms, and even true in an ideal workplace, but the star system in business, politics, sports and entertainment has become so pervasive that it's amazing those
insipid posters are still being produced and tacked onto office walls.
Corporate America deifies its CEOs, paying them absurdly more than the people who execute the work of the business. There is some justification for a modified hero-worship of some true visionaries and entrepreneurs, such as the late Steve Jobs. But the over-compensation of corporate executives—even as their companies are foundering and their workers' pay and benefits are being cut—is an insult to the "team'' motto.
Hollywood is equally guilty, building (bad) movies around star vehicles instead of putting resources into decent writing, acting and production. In The Player, a filmmaker offers the idea of "no stars – just talent'' in the making of a movie about a man about to be executed. By the end of the excellent parody of Hollywood, the would-be indie film is packed with big stars and cheap emotional scenes. It's why good, independent movies with unknown actors get little promotion, and why someone actually thought the supremely bad move Larry Crowne could be successful because it starred Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.
In professional football, gratefully, we are seeing an astonishing shift, with presumed "stars'' being less-than-perfect and a passel of no-names displaying remarkable performances. The New England Patriots' Tom Brady is still arguably the best quarterback in the league, but in the team's one loss, he threw four interceptions. The Philadelphia Eagles, with their big names and pricey new talent, were dubbed the "Dream Team'' before the season started – and are now 1-4. My own Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, have built an impressive 4-1 opening record with a collection of classic over-achievers, guys like Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson and Nick Barnett, whose names were relatively unknown until they started making great, game-winning plays. And as sportswriter Jay Skurski ably reports unknowns such as the Arizona Cardinals' Early Doucet, the New York Giants' Victor Cruz and the Oakland Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey are surprising the league with their stellar performances.
Stars aren't made or born; in the best of all worlds, they earn it.