Don't misunderstand me, I thought the movie "9 to 5" was wonderfully funny, a real old-fashioned situation comedy. The situation was secretarial; the comedians were Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda -- and all marvelous.
But long after the laughs were over and the lights went up, what I remembered most about the movie was The Boss's Speech.
At the beginning of the film, Mr. Hart strutted his stuff before the latest entry into his secretarial coop. With all the pomposity he could muster, Hart told Fonda that if he had to choose one word to describee his corporate philosophy it would be "teamwork."
Alas, he then says, it's too bad women didn't have a chance to play football. Without that training, somehow they never quite understand what "teamwork" is all about.
Well this, dear Hart, was a speech I had heard before. And before that. In fact, sometimes the subject of women and their lack of success sounds as if it were being written on the sports beat.
It is common knowledge -- and I use the term loosely -- that women are flawed because they didn't play team games, didn't learn to "bond" and to "buddy ," to do it for the Gipper and die for Ol' Miss. To put it in bizspeak, women never learned how to move the old business ball down the line.
I realize that much of corporate life, as well as language, is rooted in the sports model. But I can't figure out what's so great about the sports model.
In all honesty, I haven't attended a live football game since I watched 100,000 fans in Ann Arbor, Mich., yell "Kill, Bubba, Kill!" That did it for me.
The times I find myself in front of a televised game, I'm more fascinated by the injuries than the score. The running commentary sounds like a bulletin from some orthopedic ward. There is less talk about quarterbacks than about half knees. The coach is less important than the surgeon.
During any given game, I have seen some soul or other carried off with an advanced case of cartilage destruction. Does the game stop? Do teammates lay hands on the poor devil? Not at all. With hardly enough time to run an instant replay of his agonized face, a replacement is sent in, and the game goes on.
This, ladies and gentlemen in the corporation bleachers, is the much-vaunted sports model. You go out on the field with instructions to ram the guy on the opposition team, and if you end up hurt, you get removed. So much for you, buddy.
This is what women have missed? This is teamwork?
The sports thing came up a while ago in a conversation with Carol Gilligan, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gilligan has studied the moral development of girls, and spent time looking at girls' and boys' sports.
The differences were striking. In boy's games when someone gets hurt, he gets carted off the field while the game goes on. In girl's games when someone gets hurt, the game stops; the girls circle around the injured player.
But nowadays, as Gilligan wryly noted, everyone is trying to train the girls to play like boys. The girl who worries about people's feelings, after all, doesn't have her "eye on the ball." She may well get labeled as someone with a motivation to avoid that old corporate touchdown called success. s
I don't want to run this metaphor into the ground. I understand why it works for corporations. The Redskins or the United Incorporated Amalgamates can go on blissfully unaffected while team members are removed into retirement, unemployment or surgery.
But it's a little harder to understand why so many men sign up. It's possible they've been brainwashed by high school coaches, old war movies or by the promise of the big-bucks trophy. Or maybe they think they will be the ones to avoid injury.
As for this veteran, whenever I hear the pep talk about teamwork, I wonder just for whom the team is working. In the movie, when our Mr. Hart extolls the virtues of teamwork in his opening day speech, the women in the office can't even get off the bench.
On the other hand, by the end of this lighthearted farce, the tree women have taken over and changed to women's rules. Finally, in a delicious closing scene, the Captain of the Board sends Hart, his star player, off to the new league in Brazil.
There, I am sure, he can be heard telling his new office workers, "Honey, the business world can be a real jungle."