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Different Teams, Same Story

"Effective storytelling can remind fans of opposing teams that they share a love for the same game."


This is An "Act of Leadership" logged by The Xylom's Founder and Editor Alex Ip as a Climate Reality Leader. He has been trained by former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore in Atlanta, GA, March 2019.


What team do you root for?

The Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees? Michigan or Ohio State? Lakers or Celtics? Whatever the team, your answer emerges not from RBI statistics or winning records. Most likely, your answer is influenced by your personal history filled with stories of loss and gain, triumph and pain, only further defined by uniforms, chants, BBQs, and a shared identity that believes in a future win, no matter the facts on the ground.

The teams that we root for expand much further past the goalposts of sports arenas:

  • Team climate change vs. team climate denier

  • Team vaccine vs. team vaccine choice

  • Team Trump vs. team anybody else

The way we engage with information says more about our identities and our social grouping than it does about the factual integrity of the content. Whether we belong to the team that chants “fake news” or not, facts alone do not possess a mystical power to change people’s minds, spur change, or inspire different behavior.

Science supports this claim. Neurologist Antonio Damasio studied brain injury victims who suffered damage to the emotional processing center in the brain. In his book Descartes’ Error, he found that not only did the patients lack emotion they were also unable to make decisions, highlighting the importance of connecting emotionally to influence behavior change.

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only things that can do that is a good story.” –The Overstory, Richard Powers.

Not all stories are fables. Stories are a vehicle for sharing information in a way that is connective and memorable. Effective storytelling can remind fans of opposing teams that they share a love for the same game.


Consider an effort to further the protection of a 10,000-acre wetland. Depending on the team you root for, the action can be viewed as a government land grab or a conservation imperative. Conventional public outreach plans focus on regulatory frameworks, provide timelines, and discuss the public process. Imagine a communication plan where the wetland served as the hero of multiple stories. Stories told by many voices, from different teams.

The town manager who helped send fire trucks and rescue squads to a neighboring county when historic floodwaters devastated a town that wasn’t spared the nearly two million in damages his town avoided because the wetland absorbed the rising floodwaters. A father who takes his daughter fishing each spring on the wetland’s waters, as he did with his father when he was young. A local diner owner who is busy on weekends due to the seasonal recreationists--birders, paddlers, and hunters—enjoying the public access that they took for granted but now would be secured for generations.