A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Title: Win One For the Gipper Speech By: Knute Rockne, Notre Dame Coach Date: November 10, 1928 Location: Yankee Stadium Occasion: Notre Dame vs. Army Video Posted:YouTube (Hollywood version) Analysis:
In recognition of this weekend’s final game of the professional football season, we turn our attention to football speeches.
Football lends itself to inspiring speeches. A well-timed, well-delivered speech by the coach, either before the coin-toss, or at halftime, can deliver the emotional jolt that benefits a football team in a way that would not work for a more dispassionate sport like baseball, with its far longer season.
Army was a mighty team that season, coming in undefeated for the showdown at Yankee stadium, before 90,000 spectators. Notre Dame, fighting injuries to key players, had already lost twice. Searching for a way to inspire his seemingly overmatched team, Rockne gave the most famous pep talk in football history.
Invoking the memory of Notre Dame’s most famous player, George Gipp, who had died eight years earlier, of a streptococcus throat infection contracted on the field, Rockne tried to inspire his players. A scoreless tie at half time, Rockne’s speech propelled Notre Dame on to a surprise 12 - 6 victory.
A long and classic series, it was another Rockne team’s contest against Army four years earlier, that gave rise to a sports writer’s famous appellation. As Grantland Rice so famously penned it: “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”
Left halfback Jim Crowley went on to a coaching career, becoming head coach at Fordham University. There, he put together a dominating offensive line whose players were nicknamed the “Seven Blocks of Granite.”
One of those granite lineman was an undersized guard who also did some coaching after college. The trophy that will be awarded to the winning team on Sunday is named in his honor. The Lombardi trophy.
Rockne, who had been at Gipp´s bedside the night before his death, repeated the young athlete´s last wish to the team.
“I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy.”
Then he continued:
“The day before he died George Gipp asked me to wait until the situation seemed hopeless - then ask a Notre Dame team to go out and beat Army for him. This is the day, and you are the team.”
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.