Motivational speeches: what gives US the edge

Motivational speeches is one aspect of American culture that stands out from an European or a Malagasy perspective. The Cartesian perspective in Europe and a healthy dose of skepticism and humility in Madagascar make the motivational speech an ineffective tool in both cases. I think this is too bad. The strength of the US in my opinion, originates from their ability to seek and find an edge where others are not willing to go. It might be a bit cliche but I believe it is a fair assumption of how Americans differ from the rest of us and are able to achieve more (in very general terms). I once attended a company recruitment (that I shall not name here) conference and the 3 speakers were so enthusiastic and driven in their that my mood went for chuckling sarcastically at their show first, to then silence and finally nodding in approval.
My point is, a great passionate speech is an amazing tool to channel a group of people into outstanding achievements if the speech is done properly. Logic and intellect have often little to do with the ability to transcend people into great accomplishments.
As a case in point, there is a pretty mediocre movie about American football called "any given Sunday" with Al Pacino as a deadbeat coach, Jamie Fox as a budding star and Cameron Diaz as a shrewd owner. The only chill-inducing scene in the movie is Al Pacino giving a pre-game speech in the locker-room to motivate his players to win this one crucial game. The speech was so inspiring that even I felt like going to the lab and find a cure for cancer in the next 12 hours :).
I believe that one has to look past critical judgments and reasonable doubts to truly inspire people at critical times. Such moments are occurring routinely in real situation here: Pat Riley, the coach of the NBA champs Miami Heat is one of the best at this, he found a way to push an aging and less talented team to the top by the sheer power of his will through his speeches. If they ever make a movie about him, I can only picture Al Pacino playing Pat Riley and telling old Shaq, Mourning and Payton: " When we get old , things are taken away from us [..] but we can still climb out of hell, one inch at a time [...] the inches we need are all around us [..] now what are we going to do ?"
It may sound corny to most of us but the fact is, by pure logic only, Miami should have lost 4 out of 5 times against Dallas. Logically, France should have lost against Spain and the Zambian football team should have crumbled after most of its team in a plane crash. But these groups of people "found these inches": racial slur by opponent's coach or booing of a national anthem in the case of France, spirit of the lost ones by the Zambian football team who went on to the ANC KO rounds that year.
Madagascar could get inspiration from that type of mentality and logic defying will if we are to "climb our way up, 1 inch at a time".
Here is the speech:
"I don't know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch play by play till we're finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time.
Now I can't do it for you. I'm too old. I look around and I see these young faces and I think I mean I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make. I uh.... I pissed away all my money believe it or not. I chased off anyone who has ever loved me. And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.
You know when you get old in life things get taken from you. That's, that's part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or to early you don't quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that's going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.
I'll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face.
Now I can't make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes. Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.
That's a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That's football guys. That's all it is. Now, whattaya gonna do? "


  1. we (Zambia) lost out to Nigeria 2-1 in the finals. Most of the game was even, except the last 12 minutes where our home was the Nigerian box. I don't know how Nigeria won that one, we had so many tries in those last minutes. Anyway it was heartbreaking. That was an awesome Nigerian team though, Yekini, Okocha, all those guys. Zambia just had their 'B' team and Great Kalu so it was unbelievable that we actually got to the finals! If that accident hadn't happened we would have been in the world cup that year for sure and won the Africa Cup.

  2. thanks for the info, mos ! I was not sure how far they went after the tragic accident. If it were not for the lower media exposure of african teams, tthis story would be the biggest story ever in football. How amazing is it to have a bunch of substitutes succeeding on pure faith ? Amazing.