A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Title: Born To Be A Player Speech By: Herb Brooks Date: February 22, 1980 Location: Lake Placid Occasion: 1980 Olympics Background:
Thirty years ago today, the greatest hockey game in Olympic history, possibly ever, was played. It wasn’t even for the gold medal.
It may be difficult to imagine today, but in 1980, the Cold War between the United States and the then-Soviet Union was at a slow simmer. In the days before the Olympics allowed professionals to participate, the Soviet team was composed of “soldiers” on leave from the Army. These “amateurs” had won the last four Olympic Gold medals. They were considered the best hockey team on earth.
The U.S. team was composed of college hockey players and recent graduates who had started training together six months earlier.
Just 13 days earlier, the two teams had played an exhibition in Madison Square Garden, with the Soviets winning easily 10 to 3. Most observers agreed, the game wasn’t nearly as close as the lopsided score indicated.
The return match-up, less than two weeks later and four hours north of Manhattan, looked like a foregone conclusion. Coach Herb Brooks walked into his team’s locker room before the game determined to see a different conclusion.
Brooks read a few key phrases that had been hastily scrawled on that envelope. “You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here at this moment. You were meant to be here at this game. Let’s have the poise and possession of the puck.”
In the last few seconds of the game, when it became obvious the American team’s 4 - 3 lead would stand, sports announcer Al Michaels excitedly asked into a microphone that would not respond with an answer - “Do you believe in Miracles?” The name stuck.
Many people forget the U.S. team still had to play another game to earn the Gold medal, against Finland, two days later.
After two periods, the U.S. trailed the Finns, two goals to one. During that final intermission, Brooks strode into locker room five and pointedly addressed his team:
“If you lose this game, you’ll carry it to your grave.”
They went out for their final 20 minutes of Olympic hockey and scored three goals. They surrendered none.
Standing alone on the medal stand, team Captain Mike Eruzione urged his team-mates to join him. As they surrounded him on that crowded platform, the Star-Spangled banner played, and the Stars and Stripes soared high.
How do you analyze two speeches like this? Quite simply.
Four to three.
And, four to two.
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.