A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a very experienced executive who has made or approved countless hiring decisions at the highest levels of corporate staffing. Faced with another key hire to make, a decision between two women, he told me that when selecting a woman for a position on one of his account management or sales teams, all things being equal, the woman who had team sports experience over the one who didn’t was going to get the offer. It had been his experience that females who have team sports experience, as opposed to ice skaters, skiers, swimmers, fit in better with his mostly all male team members, and they were easier to get along with, they held the success of the team to be more important than their individual achievement, they followed guidelines and they took criticism better.
He was quick to point out that he filled as many positions in his non-team structured divisions as he did in his team divisions, and for those positions, such as legal, planning, finance, public relations experience in team sports had no influence when deciding between or among female candidates.
There’s no data to back up his thinking. There are some common sense reasons why this thinking is flawed – for example, he doesn’t know what sort of team member the candidate was. Teams, in my experience, are like all other collective groups in life: there are leaders and followers; selfless and selfish people; not everyone demonstrates good sportsmanship ; some will take the time to help out a weaker player, others will want to cull the herd, or may even denigrate weaker players; some support the coach others criticize the coach. So, my executive could not know which he was going to get when he made his selection.
It made little sense to me, but yet, I found that I had my own preconceived notions about the positives of team sports for youth, none of which are supported by data, or if they are, there are as many studies and expert opinions debunking them.
What does all this have to do with Richard Armitage? It’s relevant because over the course of “getting to know him,” I’ve been observing his athletic abilities – because that’s important to me for reasons I’ll discuss later. It’s connected to earlier discussions on identity and what fans need him to be. I need him to be a good athlete. He might be. I wanted him to be a team athlete. He wasn’t. I wanted him to be a guy who followed sports. I don’t think he is, but the jury is still out. But, I was able to construct a scenario that sufficiently made him be what I needed him to be.
I make no apology for why the sports thing is important to me at a time when there’s discussion over his politics, his pairings, his drinking, his basic beliefs, as far as we know them. I’ll just say that if he were the star of his school rugby team back then and an asshole now, then sports be damned.
What we know of Richard Armitage’s sports history is scanty, but I think that’s because there isn’t much to know. When he might have been out playing rounders or soccer, he was probably reading a book or rehearsing his instruments, his steps or his lines.
He says that he took up skiing maybe 7 or 8 years ago and loves it (we don’t know how good he is, but he learns things well). And he also told us that he goes rock climbing. He can ride a horse – I guess simple riding may qualify as a sport. ( The horse issue “fixed”another “issue” for me – whether he liked animals -because he clearly liked the horse assigned to him for The Hobbit and if that’s the only animal he every likes, it’ll have to do).
What we know about his experience in team sports is (1) that some school friend came out and said that she did not remember him playing rugby at school and (2) in an interview, he stated that when he was auditioning for Ultimate Force he told the casting director that he played some rugby in school, and then had a friend show him some moves before filming. He also said that Ross Kemp, the star of the series, helped everyone out with the rugby scenes. (The idea of a rugby game in Ultimate Force was to instill a concept of team, leadership and competition in Kemp’s Team.)
He might well have “played some rugby in school” if he had to for P.E.; but if he were on a team, I think we would have heard about it.
He has never expressed much of interest as a sports fan. I don’t recall him ever saying that he likes to kick back on weekends and watch sports with or without friends. I think at the BAFTA Tea Party in LA he answered a question about what team he follows- but I wasn’t sure if it was a rugby team or a soccer( football) team. And it didn’t sound convincing to me – but maybe he didn’t hear the question the first time. [ETA: as per Micra, she provided this link supporting this encounter)
So in terms of his actual team sports experience – none or very little. Sports in general, those he engages in came to him later in life. Spectator sports, probably not.
To be continued
Atlantic Monthly had a fascinating article on how hiring decisions were and will be made.