[Ads-l] Antedates for "Team X"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Nov 17 16:54:29 UTC 2019

I’m referring to the use of “Team X” where X is a character in a TV series or (by extension?) in a book, in whom those who profess to be on the “team” have a rooting interest. See for example the end of this excerpt from “Cult of the Literary Sad Woman”, Leslie Jamison’s cover essay in this weekend’s NYTBR:

I needed blueprints for my epic sadness, and no one captured epic sadness as well as Jean Rhys, especially — and unapologetically — in her 1939 novel, “Good Morning, Midnight.” The novel’s antiheroine, Sasha, tries to drink herself to death in a cheap Paris hotel room — haunted by her lost youth, her botched romances and the ghost of her infant son, who died at 5 weeks old. As soon as I read the first scene, in which a stranger chides Sasha for crying at a bar (“Sometimes I’m just as unhappy as you are. But that’s not to say that I let everybody see it”), I knew which team I was on: Team Sasha, Team Rhys, Team Drunk-Crying-in-Public.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/books/review/leslie-jamison-sylvia-plath-joan-didion-jean-rhys.html <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/books/review/leslie-jamison-sylvia-plath-joan-didion-jean-rhys.html>

I first remember coming across this use in blogs and reviews discussing Breaking Bad (“Team Walt”, “Team Jesse”, “Team Hank”, as in https://www.reddit.com/r/breakingbad/comments/1ie6hp/team_hank_or_team_walt/ <https://www.reddit.com/r/breakingbad/comments/1ie6hp/team_hank_or_team_walt/>) and similar popular series with (sorta) bad guys and (sorta) good guys demanding empathy, but I’m sure it’s popped up elsewhere on the web (and beyond).  Presumably its origin is a transference from “Team USA” and other sports contexts.  I don’t have access to the OED today for some reason, but I would be (pleasantly) surprised if there’s a relevant lemma there.  Maybe it’s been discussed by Ben and/or in Language Log posts.  

D’oh!  Of course it has been:  https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2043 <https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2043>
Anyway, nice work, Ben!  But I wonder if the extension to high(er), or at least older, culture is a new thing.  Team Rhett vs. Team Ashley? Team Jules vs. Team Jim? Team Edgar vs. Team Heathcliff?  Team Macbeth vs. Team Macduff? Team Hephaestus vs. Team Ares?  Team God vs. Team Satan?


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