Millions of ordinary Americans now find they have something in common with all those broken-down linebackers and worn-out relief pitchers you read about on the sports page.
They, too, are being cut from the team.
That's how some corporations have come to think of themselves. As teams up against a lot of other teams in a never-ending season of profit and loss.
And those on the payroll, why, they're members of the team.
Remember when the worker bees were simply referred to as employees, whereas everyone else was in management?
The relationships haven't changed. Only the terminology.
And I would have to agree that "teammates" is a friendlier way to refer to one's co-workers and subordinates.
But it struck me odd that Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse used the term last week in delivering some very bad news to the telecommunications giant's equally gigantic work force.
"Dear Sprint teammates," began his letter announcing that 8,000 of said teammates would be out of a job by the end of March.
Hesse went on to express his regrets, offer hopes for the future and then signed off as "Dan."
I'm not about to question Hesse's sincerity. I'm told he really does think of his underlings as "teammates."
I guess that would make him the company's multimillion-dollar star quarterback and slightly more equal than the other players on the team.
Might he have his own private locker room?
But Sprint isn't unique. The team philosophy is part of the corporate culture at many companies. It started catching on in the 1970s and 1980s, when American companies tried to emulate Japanese automakers, which credited the "team concept" for their success in making cars people wanted to buy.
"There is not a deeply rooted science in how employees are addressed," Sprint Nextel spokeswoman Lisa Zimmerman-Mott wrote in response to my question about her company's corporate culture.
"… but the use of 'team' and 'teammate' are widely used to reflect one of Sprint's cultural imperatives – 'Demonstrate teamwork and camaraderie.'
"This language supports the company's goal of having a team-based culture that involves collaboration between employees, both within individual work groups and across the business – with a key focus being placed where it is most important: on Sprint's customers and their experience at all touch points."
Don't get me wrong. Teamwork is much better than the top-down management style that prevails in some industries.
Still, it always strikes me as phony when top management refers to those at the bottom of the totem pole as "teammates" or "members of the (fill in the blank) family."
For a year or so, this newspaper was owned by the Walt Disney Co. When you work for Disney, you're not a mere employee, you're a "cast member."
I always considered that Mickey Mouse.
They hang similar window dressing at Wal-Mart, where founder Sam Walton insisted on calling his employees "associates."
I always think of associates working in law offices, not sweeping the floors and stocking shelves on the graveyard shift.
"Workers aren't stupid. They know this is a gloss," says University of Missouri-Kansas City sociology professor Deborah Smith.
Smith's focus is family life, including how it relates to the work world. As a favor, she searched the academic record and turned up several studies showing how team spirit builds cohesiveness in small groups.
"But the larger the team, the more you feel like a number," she said.
And sometimes your number comes up. You're fired.
Only nowadays, it's called taking one for the team.