Somewhere amidst the rain yesterday during my run, I found my mind drifting as it’s wont to do. I thought about great motivational speeches from film and TV. They are sports movie cliches but the weird thing about cliches is that they usually have a kernel of truth to them, a resonance within us that’s either learned at an early age or ingrained in our collective psyches.
Kyle Chandler was the master of motivational speeches on “Friday Night Lights” so much so that he and the writers must have gotten tired of doing them. As a result, they crafted one of the most powerful “speeches” that I seem to recall didn’t have any spoken words at all. Coach Taylor storms into the locker room and scribbles a single word on the dry erase board: “State.” That’s all that’s needed to motivate and inspire the ragtag band of East Dillon Lions to rally, to rise up, and begin their quest. A goal is a powerful motivator.
I had a goal yesterday — the finish line. That’s an easy one when you’re running a racing event. It’s the first of many goals for a race — safety, recovery, a good meal (I’m prone to craving a burger and fries after a race, the greasier the better. My latest obsession is a place called BurgerFi). But I was dragging through the mileage and as I said the mind was forever voyaging. It’s hard to beat Rocky Balboa for inspirational sports movie-ness. Going the distance, fighting Mr. T, thawing Soviet/American relations on Christmas in Rocky IV, there’s a reason the Italian Stallion has endured for 40 years. It’s been oft-repeated by many, but Rocky’s speech to his son in Rocky Balboa is pure cinematic rah-rah that resonates:
ROCKY: Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.
Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not point fingers and blame other people. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!
Recently I caught Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” which is a very good update on the Rocky story. Michael B. Jordan (an alum of “Friday Night Lights” and a true star) plays Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed, who seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him in boxing… and frankly in life. Once again we’re treated to training montages, inspirational beats and moments, and life lessons. And once again the lovable Champion Philadelphia palooka delivers a bit of sage wisdom that will be quoted going forward. I found myself repeating it as a mantra yesterday when the legs were tired and the body struggled to get through another mile to the finish line.
ROCKY: One step. One punch. One round at a time.
True for running, my sport of choice, and true for life. The quintessence of movie motivational speeches.