The Sage on the Gridiron: Stoic Philosophy in The Patriot Way by John Partridge , Wheaton College
In August 2011, a New York Times writer called The Patriot Way—the organizational philosophy of the New England Patriots—the "embodiment of every cliché known in sports." He went on instead to explain the team's success in terms of scheme and execution. It's hard not to share the writer's suspicion that clichés ("there is no 'I' in team") and empty statements ("it is what it is") fail to explain anything worth trying to understand. And it's attractive to locate the success of the Patriots under Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick in the technicalities of X's and O's or in the measurable, onfield performance of the team. But critical examination of the clichés shows something deeper at work. The rhetoric associated with The Patriot Way has a great deal in common with another organizational philosophy first developed in the 3rd Century BCE in Greece: Stoicism.
In this presentation, I examine the many correspondences between Ancient Stoicism and The Patriot Way. One striking commonality is how both philosophies balance two potentially incompatible drives. The first drive aims at enhancing individual self-knowledge and personal accountability, the second at subordination of the individual to values set within a larger framework. Another similarity is that each school of thought is easy to caricature and distort; in fact, some of the abuse heaped at Belichick, for instance, was directed centuries earlier toward the Stoics. By outlining the proper understanding of Stoicism, I provide a clearer and more balanced appreciation of The Patriot Way.