I have watched quite a few YouTube videos of my favourite bands lately and I have watched a few basketball games lately. And I don’t know why it never occurred to me before but team sports and band music are almost the same thing. The scores are counted differently but the process and the accomplishments are achieved in nearly the same way.
I have been in three bands and have had hundreds of teammates across the decades. One time, one of my best friends and teammates aired a free throw in a close championship basketball game. On television. Later, we heard the announcers sort of making fun of him. We won the game anyway and while we laughed, we hugged him in the dressing room later on. I like to think that had we lost, we would have hugged him in the dressing room anyway.
I was once on stage with a band, in front of a packed house and just as we were to hit the first chord, another great friend, to my left, whisper-yelled to me, that he left his guitar capo in the dressing room. He had to jump down from the high stage, run to the basement, and get his capo. The lights were up, the sound was up and the crowd stood with wonder. It was embarrassing and we laughed about it for years. But it wasn’t as embarrassing as it was bonding.
In another band, a four-piece band, I was the fourth best guitar player and the fourth best singer. But I sang and played guitar because I couldn’t drum or play bass.
Half the time in sports, I was captain of the team. But I’ve made game-winning shots and I’ve tossed up game-losing clunkers, and my teammates didn’t respect me any more or any less because the ball did or did not go through the hoop. Because I earned their respect on a Saturday morning or on a Tuesday night in practice.
Imagine how Ringo felt some times, staring at the backs of Lennon and McCartney and Harrison. He was the invisible foundation. Imagine how Tim Raines felt when Andre Dawson metaphorically took the cocaine vial out of his back-pocket and saved his life. Imagine how that 400 metre sprinter felt when he pulled all the muscles in his leg in an Olympic final and his father jumped down from the stands, chased by security guards, and carried his son across the finish line. Disqualified time be damned. He finished and they crossed the line together. It was the greatest thing I have ever seen in sports.
On every team, of every kind, there are the stars and the scrubs. I have been both. But behind the scenes, a good laugh or an extra guitar pick or a pat on the butt can be as important as a three-pointer or a perfectly sung note.
I have done solo music lately but truth be told, it was as collaborative as anything I have ever done. My next gig will be alone and it will be the first time. It won’t be the same.
I have never been a solo athlete, but in a sense, getting out of bed each day and going for a walk or a bike ride is an act of solo athleticism. It’s not the same as getting out of a shared bed or walking hand in hand, but it is still an act that carries value.
I think of my teammates, the ones who couldn’t shoot or couldn’t score, and I think of my band mates, the ones who forgot the words and the ones who forgot their capos, and I think of them fondly. Not because of their mistakes. But because of their kinship and shared time.
There’s nothing like a teammate or a band mate or a soul mate or a pal. The sum really is greater than its parts.