Today's sun was so bright, my eyes needed minutes to adapt to its blazing glare, as if I had just emerged from Plato's cave. It became evidently clear to my squinting eyes, that spring had finally arrived.

Ah... spring. The season of madrigals, budding blooms, and feverish bursts of lustful energy. It's also the season when kids head to the grassy fields for Little League and soccer practice, and adults reconnect to their inner competitor by joining softball, volleyball and tennis leagues, one and all indulging in the pleasures of being part of a team.

Participating on a team requires us to subordinate our egos in order to work alongside our teammates for one higher goal -- the benefit of the team. Sure everyone wants to be in the starting lineup; but sometimes we have to grit our teeth while sitting on the bench if the manager thinks that's best for the team's success.

A team is a combination of people with different strengths and skills, whose sum of the parts is surely more valuable than the individual players themselves. Decisions are made by the manager, whose role is to have: (1) a keen understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each team member; (2) knowledge of the conditions under which each individual thrives; and (3) the vision to put together winning combinations during any point of the competition.

Building a successful portfolio of stocks is very much like being the manager of a team -- a team that is a collection of individual stocks you choose to own.

Like a manager, Fools begin their quest for the best players on their portfolios team by scouting the draft of available players (stocks). We search out companies that are the best managed, most profitable, most understandable, and most dependable.

Rule Breakers are the big stars of your team, the companies with the highest risk, and the highest potential for return. If we can find a company equivalent to L.A. Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, we can have a force powerful enough to produce stellar returns over the long-term.

Keep in mind that its not possible to build a portfolio of all Shaqs -- Mother Nature doesn't make that many. And even if she did, the Lakers would not be the successful team they are now with five Shaqs on the court. Who would hit the three-pointers? Who would have the quick hands and feet needed to dribble the ball against full court presses?

Because a team needs to be well-rounded, a Foolish portfolio might contain a Shaq and a Kobe Bryant (the Rule Breakers), and then a strong group of solid, dependable players -- defensive ones -- who aren't flashy, but can be counted on to hit the open shot when the star is being double teamed -- players that would fall under the category of Rule Makers or Foolish Four stocks. As a manager, you look towards the less-risky stocks to take over portfolio growth when the big guns are experiencing growing pains, or going through a slump or short-term market downturn. However, whatever the investment mix, you, the manager, must feel comfortable with it.

By viewing your portfolio as a team, you have the luxury of taking a chance on a new rookie player (if you've done your research, of course), with the comfort of knowing that if you are wrong, the depth and range of your portfolio team would feel barely a dent.

To learn how to become a strong manager of a team of great companies, please read our "13 Steps to Investing Foolishly."

So how did team Rule Breaker do today?

America Online (NYSE: AOL) announced the structure of team AOL Time Warner today. Steve Case will become the company's chairman of the board, breathing new life into that term since Old Blue Eyes passed over. As expected, Gerald Levin, the current chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc. will become chief executive officer.

So far so good.

Bob Pittman will become AOL Time Warner's co-chief operating officer, sharing the post with Dick Parsons, Time Warner's current president. Pittman will oversee subscription services, advertising and commerce, while Parsons will oversee the content businesses in film, television production, music and books. It will be interesting to see if two strong, successful leaders can share one post, even though they have diverse responsibilities. In the meantime, the new company has the benefit of two of their top talents working as one force. For the team.

Rule Breaker Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), continuing to addict the world to its delicious coffee brews, opened its first outlet in Shanghai today, in line with its plan of opening a total of 500 stores in Asia by the end of 2003. Team Starbucks is hoping that coffee will replace tea as the caffeinated drink of choice in Asia. Will they succeed? Considering the market has heretofore been untapped, the odds are definitely in their favor.

I wonder if chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz, who on June 1 will officially become Starbucks' chairman and chief global strategist, consulted Lewis Carroll for his inspiration to add more outlets in Asia.

"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. "I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more." "You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter. "It's very easy to take more than nothing." -- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Enjoy the spring -- and the basketball playoffs!