Previously, we analyzed the Toronto Raptors as an organization, focusing on the causes of its perpetual mediocrity. We mentioned that there is a systemic problem that’s been bothering the Raptors since its inception. Our first analysis focused on the Shifting the Burden archetype. Today, we are going to focus on another Systems Archetype: Escalation.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
While Shifting the Burden is the systems archetype arresting the development of Toronto Raptors, it is not the only demon, with which the organization is dealing. The Raptors have a secondary systemic problem, which it is called the Escalation.
According to William Braun, the Escalation archetype occurs when one party’s actions are perceived by another party to be a threat, and the second party responds similarly, further increasing the danger. Since the actions of both parties are self-reinforcing and self-motivating, mutually threatening behaviours, grow exponentially over time. The best-known example of the Escalation archetype is the nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR, which took place during the Cold War. Every time the USSR built a nuclear warhead, the US made two, which forced the USSR to produce more.
If it gets out of control, the Escalation archetype could lead to doomsday. That said, escalation is not necessarily a bad thing. That archetype could be tapped into to increase healthy fight. As long as it is kept under control, such systemic behaviour would end up promoting progress.
The pattern of the Escalation archetype is relatively straightforward and predictable. As discussed in the Cold War example, the actions (and reactions) of each party are similar in nature, though they become increasingly competitive as time goes by.
At the heart of any healthy rivalry, you may spot the fingerprints of the Escalation archetype. The best-known business example of productive escalation is the Coke-Pepsi case. Instead of trying to annihilate each other, those two companies continually raised the bar and ended up dominating the global market. How does this relate to the Raptors?
At the heart of any healthy rivalry, you may spot the fingerprints of the Escalation archetype.
When we look at the narrative of the Toronto Raptors as an organization, we realize that there is no antagonist. There is not a worthy villain. There is no enemy. During its two decades of existence, the Raptors never had a bona fide rival (not a team or a single player.) At present, no other franchise is forcing the Raptors to raise its bar, which is a systemic problem.
We can talk about three types of rivalries: First, there are historical rivalries, which lead to greatness. Take the Lakers vs. the Celtics, for example. When the Celtics assembled its Big Three, it was the Escalation archetype that forced the Lakers to trade for Pau Gasol. A historical rival is something that the Raptors Organization is missing dearly.
Second, there are geographic rivalries like Texas rivalries. Back in the day, when the Grizzlies were located in Vancouver, Toronto Raptors used to have a Canadian rival. Unfortunately, that rivalry ceased to exist prematurely, leaving the Raptors as Canada’s Team by default, not by merit. If -and that’s a big if- the Raptors could create a rallying cry against American teams, then a geographic rivalry might kick in.
Finally, there are in-city rivalries. Boston is a case in point. Attention and passion are limited resources. That’s why every franchise must fight for the support of Bostonians. Whenever the Red Sox or the Bruins up their game, the Celtics feel the pressure to catch up, which is a healthy effect of the Escalation archetype. It is not a stretch to say that any organization operating in a competitive market needs to tap into the Escalation archetype to be successful.
Going back to Toronto Raptors, the franchise is in desperate need of a worthy instigator. Whom could that be? As discussed there are no historical rivals. How about geographical rivalry? No NBA franchise is planning to move to Canada. As a result, there is no room for national competition. The Raptors will stay as Canada’s Team, as long as they remain in Toronto. Consequently, the Toronto Raptors have only one option: Instigating an in-city rivalry.
In an ideal world, the Raptors should fight for the attention and love of Torontonians. Typically, the franchise should feel some pain after having a mediocre run. Preferably the success of other Toronto-based franchises should raise the bar for the Raptors.
However, there are no in-city rivalries, for we do not live in an ideal world. The most apparent instigator could be the Toronto Maple Leafs, another franchise suffering from a mediocre run. Should those two decide to go on an arms race, both of them could rise above mediocrity. However, here is the problem: Both franchises belong to the same ownership group: MLSE.
While owning major franchises creates corporate synergy for MLSE, it kills a potential in-city rivalry, which could lift all boats. That is a major systemic problem with which the Raptors has to deal. They must find an instigator -whether geographic or local- that would keep them up on their toes. Unfortunately, there’s nobody that fits the bill right now -unless the Raptors play into the Canadian vs. US narrative.
They must find an instigator -whether geographic or local- that would keep them up on their toes. Unfortunately, there’s nobody that fits the bill right now -unless the Raptors play into the Canadian vs. US narrative.
Our next article will look at the third system archetype, which contributes to the extended mediocrity of Toronto Raptors: Eroding Goals.
What do you think? Is it beneficial for the Raptors to have an archrival? If so, who could play the role of the antagonist? Fire up your comments.
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