motivational speech also includes a reference to that outside world and
its influence. Referencing the climate outside of the enclosed classroom,
training room, or hockey arena adds an extra sense of relevancy to the
final game or test and raises the dramatic stakes for the characters and
for viewers.
Miracle is one of the easier movies with which to draw a direct
cultural link between the film and the outside world. The 1980 Olympic
games took place during the height of the Cold War with the American
people feeling downtrodden and hopeless. The seemingly unbeatable
Soviet hockey team had dominated the international hockey world for
the previous 20 years. Therefore, it was easy for a lot of people to let
political tensions with the Soviets bleed into the hockey game,
effectively politicizing the competition by linking it to the arms race.
Herb Brooks makes reference to this tension with the Soviets (only in
a hockey context) in his pre-game speech: “I am sick of hearing about
what a great team the Soviets have. Screw ‘em! This is your time. Now,
go out there and take it.” While Brooks does not overtly mention the
larger political implications of the game, there is a certain animosity
behind the statement. This clearly more than a hockey game against a
bitter rival; it is about the Soviets believing they are better at everything
then somebody finally knocking them down a level.
Another sports movie that clearly has a strong cultural/social
context to it is Remember the Titans. The integration of a black football
team with a white football team lead by a black head coach in the 1970s
creates a lot of tension at the school and in the community. Recognizing
this tension is necessary for the motivational speech to succeed,
especially so early in the film. Though similar to the earlier characteristic
involving recognition of obstacles, recognition of social/cultural factors
is more direct in this case. “Listen. Take a lesson form the dead. If we
don’t come together, right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be
destroyed,” says Coach Boone. This is a direct statement regarding the
racial tensions the team is experiencing, and by using Gettysburg as an
example of destruction, the coach implies that this action of “coming
together” needs to extend beyond the football field.
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