Sometimes, being paid millions of dollars isn’t enough to get the competitive juices flowing. Sometimes, the image of a championship trophy can’t get it done. Sometimes, players need their motivation to come from elsewhere.
Enter the locker room speech. The last words players hear before they take the field, court or ice. The last chance (minus halftime) for a coach or player to get the team properly excited. The last hope that an inspired team can still beat a more talented one.
Some people have mastered the locker room speech, and their speeches take on a YouTube life of their own on. Here are my ten favorites, covering both real speeches and fictional ones:
10) Eric Bruskotter, Major League II: I shouldn’t really acknowledge this movie’s existence, because I’m pretty sure if enough people forget it exists it will actually cease to exist, like fairies in Peter Pan. But this speech still elicits a laugh. And hey, the Indians do start playing better after it:
9) Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday: It’s too bad Pacino’s career devolved into movies of him shouting. And I’m not sure telling your team how crappy your life is will really motivate anybody. But still, a well-delivered speech:
8) Michael “Pinball” Clemons, 92nd Grey Cup, 11/21/2004: The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League championship. This speech comes from the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts, Michael Clemons, whose team ultimately won 27-19. When I saw the video title, I hoped the whole speech would be delivered in a hilarious Canadian accent. No dice, but still a pretty decent speech:
7) John Henderson, Jaguars defensive tackle: Former DT John Henderson is the real-life version of Terry Tate, office linebacker. His pregame ritual is to have an athletic trainer slap him in the face, then go off on some truly profane rants:
6) David Wilson, IFAF Junior World Cup Championship vs. Canada, 7/5/2009: Before I saw this clip, I had no idea the International Federation of American Football even existed. They’ve played an international World Cup every four years since 1999. Japan won the first two (say what?), the U.S. the last two (that’s more like it). The IFAF held their first exclusively under-19s tournament back in 2009, and this raw, stirring and heart-felt speech comes from starting RB David Robinson before the championship (which the U.S. won, 41-3):
5) Gene Hackman, Hoosiers: This speech breaks the mold a bit: it starts with actual strategy on how to beat the opponent, moves to a thank you from the coach that shows more honesty than Al Pacino’s, then ends with a Biblical quote about a man, not God. It all results in a speech as dignified as it is inspring:
4) Vince Lombardi, Super Bowl II, 1/14/68: No one could motivate a team like Vince Lombardi. He began his Packers tenure with a speech that included the famous line, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” He ended his time in Green Bay with this:
3) Ray Lewis, Stanford NIT Semifinal vs. UMass, 3/27/2012: Ray Lewis may be a bit of a crazy person, but I give him credit for showing up to give a pre-game speech in the Not Important Tournament. And it was a pretty damn good speech at that!
2) John Flowers, Leland High School (San Jose, Cali.) JV Football Championship: I tried really hard to find the date this game was played, but I couldn’t. Which is too bad, because this is the best athletic speech delivered by a real person (not an actor) that I’ve ever heard. The bagpipes admittedly bring it down a hair:
1) Kurt Russell, Miracle: The speech that ended communism (discounting the one from Rocky IV). No one’s done it better: