Most Americans can remember where they were on September 11, 2001. We remember the horror and sorrow that came with the events on that day, and the years to follow. For me, I was living less than five miles from the Pentagon. I saw the smoke billowing from the building and the gaping hole on the west side. Then, just weeks after the attack, I began an internship at the Pentagon in the Office of Media Affairs. I saw the destruction. I saw the bandages and scars on employees. And I saw the rebuilding, both physically and emotionally.
The war on terror, no matter your politics, has been an important war. I can understand the rationale for sending our troops overseas, as I come from a military family with war veterans in my grandfathers, father and brother. However, controversies surround our arrival and stay in the Middle East, with arguments abundant on withdrawal from the area.
So when news of a film depicting the assassination of Osama Bin Laden surfaced, many questioned the direction of the film, Zero Dark Thirty: Will it political? Will it be truthful? Will it be real? Reports of the film producers having the classified documents of the raid was shocking, with many news outlets suspecting political influence on the film. The response: Writers did their homework but never asked for nor received classified materials.
I was hesitant to see Zero Dark Thirty, as I was told it was quite graphic, yet I was also informed that it was an accurate and truthful representation of war. While it wasn't as "real" as Act of Valor, which used actual Navy Seals and tactics for the film, Zero Dark Thirty felt incredibly authentic. You know the ending, yet you are kept at the edge of your seat, heart pounding with every move and shot fired.
In this film is one of the most incredible representations of a hero - the Seal Team Six. These men trained for months, studying a building that had an unknown interior and preparing for any possibility. We will never know who these men are, as they are bound in silence and confidentiality. They are the quiet victors, the unsung heroes, the unified team.
As I think about Zero Dark Thirty and the themes pulsating throughout the film, I see analogies between the Navy Seals and the San Antonio Spurs. As I wrote in my first piece for "Pounding the Rock," the Spurs are not media hungry, they don't seek out commercialization and attention. And with the team leader bringing in his military background and process-oriented mindset that was honed during his time in the Air Force, Gregg Popovich teaches and focuses on the team rather than the individual. In essence, you look at the Spurs and do not see a singular person achieving a goal, but rather the entire group. Yes, each team member has his own goal and role, but the desired outcome of success cannot be achieved without teamwork.
Bring in military linguistics as comparison: Fans often describe the game as a war, especially when the opponents are the Los Angeles Lakers or the Dallas Mavericks. We view Tim Duncan as our current company commander, our General, with David Robinson as our famous Admiral, even if he's currently only consulting. The team has silent killers in Matt Bonner's three-pointers and Kawhi Leonard's youthful endurance. Defensive moves from Bruce Bowen weakened his opponents. The San Antonio Spurs roll in, make their shots, and then leave, because their ultimate goal is to win, it's their job. They are expected to individually be their best, but also be the best together, as championships are won by unified teams.
And like Seal Team Six, the recognition is silent. Sure, those involved want the world to know what they accomplished, want everyone to know the shot was taken and a win for the team was achieved. But it's not necessary, because knowing the job was done, and done through a process, is enough.
Yes, I understand that a basketball game and a military mission are two very completely different jobs. However, the foundation of team and teamwork is a theme that can translate into everyday life, even the game of sport. And the San Antonio Spurs embody that mindset. It's not about seeking out recognition or praise - that comes naturally with the achievements and success. It's about the team and working together, not the individual.
So, this Sunday when the 85th Academy Awards are presented, Zero Dark Thirty will be featured in several categories. And while it's not the front-runner for Best Picture, I will tell you that the film is incredible. It's Hollywood's version of a historical remembrance of the takedown of someone who organized an attack that changed the course of American history, branding into our minds images of the collapsing steel and concrete. And while we can't pat the backs of those who engineered and executed the raid, we can all appreciate the collaboration and unity it took to achieve a win.