A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
You Don’t Live In Cleveland? - 10 Top Sports Speeches
They inspire, stir the emotions, and offer a natural audience identification. They also incite frank, impassioned, even heated, debate. We are talking, of course, about sports. Indeed, the speeches associated with sports are also inspirational, emotion stirring, and provide natural identification with the audience. All these qualities have the makings of a good speech.
The folks at Real Clear Sports, an adjunct of Real Clear Politics, have put together what they feel are the 10 Top Sports Speeches of all time. Several of these are clips of athletes speaking at press conferences. I’m not sure these meet the definition of a speech. One is a poem by Jack Buck in response to the attacks on 9/11. Although it is special, I’m not sure it’s a speech either. While I have some facility with prose, I must confess poetry is beyond my ability to assess.
Number nine on the list raises serious questions in my mind. It is a 14 second clip of Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche grabbing the stadium microphone, to urge an arena full of angry fans not to throw any more objects at the referees who have just blown a call. It’s not a speech. It’s not even a decent public service announcement, as far as I’m concerned. More than that, his assertion that the fans should behave because they are from Cincinnati, not Cleveland, is incredibly disparaging to another part of the home state of Ohio. But go, take a look, and decide for yourself.
It’s not as if there aren’t other choices. This list neglects other famous locker room speeches. How about Yale football coach T.A.D. Jones’ pep talk before the Harvard-Yale game of 1916, back when both those teams were perennial national power houses? “Gentlemen, you are now going to play football against Harvard. Never again in your whole life will you do anything so important.” It inspired his players to a 6-3 victory in what today is known simply as - “The Game.”
Next, we’ll take a look at number one on the list. It’s an oration which truly owns that favored position - Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth” speech.
A veteran writer, researcher and lecturer, with more than 25 years experience in politics, political communications, and public relations. I’ve studied speech writing at NYU, and authored a number of published articles on the practice of lobbying as well as topics in American history.
My lecture on the War of 1812: 1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War, is now a lecture in the New York Speakers in the Humanities bicentennial commemoration series.