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In good company: Recollecting my 'winning team' experience



Lessons from Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Bridgman, MI—My first recollection of a “Winning Team Experience” was the 1957 World Champion Detroit Lions. This is one of the first things I remember in my life as my parents had just moved to Holly, MI and I had just started first grade.


Back in those days, the NFL blacked out all games on TV in the home team's city, including playoff and championship games. My father, who had just purchased our first TV to watch our beloved Lions, had a hack for the TV blackout of the Detroit station. He got a 40-foot-tall pipe and installed it from the garage floor up through the roof.


On top of the pole was a directional TV antenna. Welded onto the pipe in the garage was a handle in the same direction as the antenna on top of the roof. As he turned the handle in the garage, away from the south where the Detroit stations were, I watched the TV tuned to channel 6, the Lansing station outside the blackout area, and yelled when the station signal came into focus.

The championship game itself, on Dec. 29, 1957 (when Detroit beat Cleveland), was an exceptional experience and I developed a devotion to the team that was irreversible. 1957 was the year that the Detroit Lions were engraved into my DNA.


From 1958 until now, I have been dreaming of another Detroit Lion's “Winning Team Experience.”


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My next experience with a “Winning Team Experience” came from my four years (1964-1968) as a member of the Adelphian Academy Concert Band under the direction of Dan Schultz.


While I learned and developed exceptional musical skills on my trombone under Mr. Shultz's tutorials, the real value I received and remember from those four years was the uniqueness of the team experience every member of the group had.


Mr. Shultz had the rare talent of teaching each student how to become better at their individual skill, while at the same time building up an esprit de corps that transformed average high school kids into a renowned performance concert band.


In my healthcare career, I've experienced many “Winning Teams.” During my 10 years as CEO of Parkview Hospital in Brunswick, Maine, I learned how important ownership and board leadership is to the “Winning Team Experience.”


At Parkview, Mike Ortel and Bob Sundin, who were executives at the Adventist organization in Maine that owned Parkview, provided the oversight and leadership to the hospital’s board of directors that resulted in the exceptional performance of extraordinary providers, managers and staff.


In an environment where a large competing hospital had lusted after the control and dismantling of this little hospital, resulting in public relations and political strategies meant to destroy "The Little Engine That Could,” this improbable “Winning Team” proceeded to excel in patient care and caring that caught the attention of national healthcare evaluation organizations.


Being able to win awards for information technology, patient satisfaction, and clinical excellence in a service area where the large Goliath provider continually attempted to discredit its David.


Competitors created a euphoric “Winning Team Experience” at Parkview that I will never forget.


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In recent years, I've had the great opportunity to write a column for The Pacific Island Times published in the Western Pacific. Being on the same team with the likes of Jeni Ann Flores, Diana Mendoza, Joyce McClure, Johanna Salinas and Robert Underwood, under the leadership of publisher Mar-Vic Cagurangan, has created another “Winning Team Experience” for me.


Having a “Winning Team Experience” in life adds to the enjoyment of the too-short time we spend on this earth and helps us deal with the disappointments and sorrows that are inevitable for each of us.


Now in 2023, I have one “Winning Team Experience” that I am dreaming of again.

Since 1958, my beloved football team, the Detroit Lions, has been mired in decades-long periods of mediocrity, and downright deplorable performances.


William Clay Ford, Sr. of Detroit bought the Lions in 1964 and for six decades was the owner/chairperson of the board until his death in 2014. During this time, the Lions never came close to being in a Super Bowl.


After William Clay, Sr.'s death, his widow, Martha Firestone Ford, became chairperson. Finally, in 2020, the family turned to Sheila Ford Hamp, daughter of William Clay Ford, Sr., in a desperate attempt to change the culture of losing, from the top.


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Any winning team must have talented team members. However, what sets winning teams apart from a pack of wannabes is exceptional leadership.


This unassuming woman (Sheila Hamp) has managed a miraculous turnaround with the Lions, putting in place an impressive general manager and coach that are receiving national praise.


The hype associated with this new Lions team has been so contagious that Las Vegas is taking more bets on the Lions for this coming season than any other team. For the first time in their modern history, all season tickets have been sold out.


The NFL's schedule makers looking into their crystal ball to achieve a record-setting TV audience for the opening game of the 2023/24 season have matched up the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs with none other than my new Detroit Lions.

The season's first game will be played in Kansas City on the evening of Sept. 7 before a national TV audience.


It really doesn't matter whether you will be reading this before or after this Sept. 7 opening match-up, The Dream is Alive!


Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at theodorelewis@yahoo.com.




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