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The Best Speeches in Sports Movie History

Andrew BlumettiCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2012

The Best Speeches in Sports Movie History

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    Locker rooms are gross.

    They're smelly, waterlogged, messy and littered with way too many used jockstraps for comfort.

    Luckily, the magic of film makes us forget all of that malarkey. 

    The field, court or ice may be where champions are born and where legends are crowned, but the silver screen reminds us: Those gross locker rooms are places of inspiration and motivation that bring us to the marvelous point of celebration. 

    Stars don't just perform out of nowhere.  Before Rudy gets a-Rudyin' and the Hoosiers get a-Hoosierin', it takes great words of wisdom to get us there.

    Sports films would be nothing without overcoming adversity.  Honestly, no one in their right mind wants to watch a story of nothing's happening, right?  Watching a real blowout on television is bad enough as it is, after all. 

    That adversity is met with courage, bravery and fortitude.  All are exemplified in these classic sports film speeches—some emotional, some humorous, some angry and some not even told in the setting of a locker room. 

    All have one thing in common, though: The ability to break down that wall and pull the viewer into the situation, letting us feel that intensity.  The perfect storm of great acting, writing and directing all coming together to produce rare movie magic. 

    Without any further ado, a collective list of these moments. It was going to be a "30 Best Speeches in Sports Movie History," but today you're getting the Baskin Robbins treatment, so 31 you shall have.

     

    Note:  Some video clips contain adult language and are NSFW.  Clips and slides may contain spoilers. 

31. The Replacements: "Pain Heals"

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    Year:  2000

    Character:  Shane Falco

    Played by:  Keanu Reeves

     

    Pretty-boy Keanu Reeves couldn't even stop a bomb-rigged bus from going under 50 mph.  It's not out of this world to call his leadership skills on the field into question. 

    When a strike leads fictional professional football team, the Washington Sentinels, to pick up filler players to play out the season, former college success and pro failure Shane Falco is hired as the team's stopgap quarterback in the interim. 

    Long story short, it seems literally shocking that a Keanu Reeves football movie should last nearly two hours, but the "duuuude... totally bogus" pep-speech he gives his players in the huddle blends a mild amount of humor and resourcefulness into a key spot in the game. 

30. National Lampoon's Van Wilder: "Like a Fat Kid on a Cupcake!"

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    Year:  2002

    Character:  Vance "Van" Wilder Jr.

    Played by:  Ryan Reynolds

     

    Ryan Reynolds has been the Green Lantern, trapped in a box and one part of a pizza place trio

    So, why should we listen to him?

    Well, in this low-brow, gross-out-o-rama, Reynold's character, Van, comes off as the closest to the voice of reason that this not-so-highbrow film is going to produce. 

    When the easy-going, seven-year college student isn't pulling disgusting and clownish pranks on fellow students, he churns some gold with this comical locker room pep-speech to the school's basketball team.

29. Major League 2: "Winning Streak"

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    Year:  1994

    Character:  Lou Brown

    Played by:  James Gammon

     

    Actor/trainwreck Charlie Sheen annoyingly made "winning!" a minute-long cultural phenomenon last year, but in this locker room, his team sure couldn't say the same.


    This speech boils down to simple math for Indians manager Lou Brown as he takes it game-by-game.  His gravely voice brimming with restrained positivity and a brief speech about how a team's winning streak can begin with only three simple games. 

28. Poolhall Junkies: "The Lion Speech"

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    Year:  2003

    Character:  Uncle Mike

    Played by:  Christopher Walken

     

    - A relatively creepy Christopher Walken...

    - A rather sterile-looking men's room...

    - An inspirational story about lions to scare the pants off your opponent in a game of billiards...

     

    Is this a great sports speech?  Well, one shake of your Magic 8-Ball and here's your answer

27. The Sandlot: "Legends Never Die"

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    Year:  1993

    Character:  Babe Ruth

    Played by:  Art LaFleur

     

    Who amongst us can't relate to playing baseball on a beat-up old park field? 

    When the school bell rang, a group of guys would run home, drop off their bags, grab a mitt and meet up to play.  No coaches, no crowd, no pressure, just kids playing the game for the love of it.

    That's where The Sandlot really shined.  It may have been set in the early 1960s, but it remains relatable to this day.

    Before going to bed one night, neighborhood all-star Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez receives a brief inspirational speech in the form of a vision of Babe Ruth.  Ruth's encouraging words, "Heroes get remembered, legends never die," inspires Rodriguez to retrieve a lost baseball from the feared neighborhood dog, simply called "The Beast."

26. The Program: "We're Gonna Ring the Bell"

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    Year:  1993

    Character:  Coach Sam Winters

    Played by:  James Caan 

     

    Many people don't remember the early-90s gridiron movie The Program for anything other than the controversial "laying in the middle of the highway scene," which was quickly pulled from the film after teenagers were killed imitating it. 

    There was also actual football in the movie too, such as this brief testosterone-filled pregame rally from Coach Winters. 

    The Program isn't a football film classic.  It's rarely mentioned in the company of Rudy, Knute Rockne or Any Given Sunday, but make no doubt, its gritty and often ugly portrayal of college football is probably a little more realistic than a lot of us would hope. 

25. Cool Runnings: "Pride"

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    Year:  1993

    Character:  Yul Brenner

    Played by:  Malik Yoba

     

    When it was announced that Jamaica would be sending a national bobsled team to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics, the highly-inexperienced foursome became both a fan-favorite underdog and the butt of many jokes during the Games. 

    Their infamous crash run in the Calgary Games inspired the early-'90s feel-good comedy Cool Runnings, a snowy, John Candy sleeper hit. 

    In this scene, bobsledder Junior Bevil, is inspired by teammate Yul Brenner with a "look-at-your-refection," pump-you-up speech, repeating Brenner's words to toughen his spirit. 

    Now take a look in the mirror and say it with us...

24. Slap Shot: "Show Us What You Got"

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    Year:  1977

    Character:  Reggie Dunlop

    Played by:  Paul Newman

     

    Reggie Dunlop is a player/coach for the Charlestown Chiefs, a perennially-losing hockey team.  Not particularly a good player, he works best at conning and manipulating his players.

    Dire straits arrive as their hometown is facing the possible closing of the local mill, home to 10,000 employees.  

    When push comes to shove, Dunlop desperately decides to start the trio of players known as "The Hanson Brothers," three unstable, violent, goofy-looking athletes.  Their nasty and aggressive fighting style of play wins over the once-lost fans in the community as an all-out hilarious symphony of dirty playing erupts on the ice. 

23. Little Giants: "One Time"

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    Year:  1994

    Character:  Danny O'Shea

    Played by:  Rick Moranis

     

    "Honey, I motivated the kids."

22. Gridiron Gang: "The Mustang Challenge"

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    Year:  2006

    Character:  Coach Sean Porter

    Played by:  Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

     

    The Rock plays a not-so-nice guy who sprouts wings and has to pick up the teeth of children.

    Oh...sorry, wrong movie

    Sean Porter works at a detention center with troubled kids.  In order to distance them from the lives of gangs, guns and violence, he starts up a football program.

    In a motivational pregame speech, he tells his players that despite where they are, with hard work they could become winners, helping them to realize the value of hard work and dedication—and in turn, the value of themselves.

    As opposed to the end of The Tooth Fairy, when the audience asks for their money back

21. Bull Durham: "I Believe"

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    Year:  1988

    Character:  Crash Davis

    Played by:  Kevin Costner

     

    Crash Davis, an aging minor league catcher, provides one of the most blatant and upfront speeches in sports film history, if not film history, period.

    His thoughts and feelings, said on a whim but spoken with almost a rehearsed quality, Davis' earnestness leaves the usually cool, resident baseball groupie Annie Savoy feeling jelly-legged and vulnerable. 

    Davis certainly has a point about awful Astroturf and opening gifts Christmas morning, but Costner apparently didn't take Davis' frame of mind on set when filming JFK a few years later. 

20. Facing the Giants: "Your Very Best!"

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    Year:  2006

    Character:  Coach Grant Taylor

    Played by:  Alex Kendrick

     

    It's a shame that we live in a world where The Fast and the Furious franchise has made almost a billion-and-a-half dollars worldwide, but Facing the Giants never reached a larger audience. 

    A Christian drama set in the world of high school football, it tells the story of Grant Taylor, coach of the Shiloh Eagles, who has come upon hard times.  The town's parents want him out, his car is breaking down and he and his wife are struggling to have children.

    To turn things around, he switches to a new philosophy of coaching to achieve success from his students.  This particular scene, not as much a speech as an intense motivational exercise, is a moving example of giving your all and achieving more than you thought you were capable of. 

19. The Wrestler: "Final Speech"

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    Year:  2008

    Character:  Randy "The Ram" Robinson

    Played by:  Mickey Rourke

     

    Acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky's tale, The Wrestler, is a journey of a past-his-prime wrestling star of yesteryear. 

    Living in a beat-up trailer, earning minimum wage from an obnoxious boss, frequenting strip clubs and with a frayed relationship with his estranged daughter, things aren't quite what they used to be for "The Ram." His glory days are long past, and he can't recapture them no matter how hard he tries.

    In the film's climatic scene, The Ram, facing a potentially fatal heart condition, picks up a microphone in a final moment of grandeur to show his appreciation to the fans, who he feels truly understand him.  Knowing of his certain doom, he delivers a poignant and personal eulogy, spilling his barely beating heart to the people who once gave him life. 

18. Moneyball: "Is Losing Fun?"

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    Year:  2011

    Character:  Billy Beane

    Played by:  Brad Pitt

     

    One of the most memorable speeches in recent sports-movie history is more silence than words.

    When frustrated Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane walks into the team's locker room to upbeat tunes, smiling faces and a dancing Jeremy Giambi, he loses it, in the calmest way possible.

    With a thrown cooler, a tossed bat and moments of uncomfortable quietness, Beane leaves the team with the message that their celebrating will not be tolerated when their play on the field is so poor. 

17. Coach Carter: "You Men Played Like Champions"

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    Year:  2005

    Character:  Coach Ken Carter

    Played by:  Samuel L. Jackson

     

    Say what again!

    When Ken Carter takes over the coaching job of the Richmond High School basketball team, he aims to take the disrespectful and rude group of players and turn them into honest young men with the utmost integrity.

    This shocking change in discipline clashes with some players, but eventually Carter's prideful ways help the team work as one. 

    After a climatic playoff-game loss, Carter approaches his deflated group of players in the locker room and reassures this once-lost bunch that they've earned his pride and respect, that their hard work has paid off, making them all better people with bright futures ahead.

16. Rocky Balboa: "It's About How Hard You Can Get Hit and Keep Moving Forward"

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    Year:  2006

    Character:  Rocky Balboa

    Played by:  Sylvester Stallone

     

    Sorry Sly, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot will have to wait for the next list. 

    Who would've thought Sylvester Stallone would end up on a "Best Speech" list?  One of Sly's trademark is his "sounds like a week-long bender" slur after all, the other being his non-speaking scenes in action-packed films.

    Well, Stallone really knocked one out of the park with this life lesson to his son in Rocky Balboa

    When his son Robert blames his personal failures on growing up under his father's shadow, Rocky gives him some worldly and wise fatherly advice about taking responsibility, being strong and coming out on top in a tough world. 

    Rock's had a lot of hard miles on him over the years and a lot of lessons to hand down, and most of all, he certainly doesn't want his son to be crushed under the weight of life's exceeding pressures.

15. Brian's Song: "Gale Sayers' Speech"

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    Year:  1971

    Character:  Gale Sayers

    Played by:  Billy Dee Williams

     

    When Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers is told his friend and teammate, Brian Piccolo, has cancer, the heavy-hearted player gives an emotional speech to his fellow players.

    With the team standing in silence, Sayers, searching for the words, appeals to his teammates to play their hearts out for Piccolo, dedicating themselves to present him with the game ball afterward. 

    His honest and candid words, spoken, not yelled, carry so much weight, moving a team of grown men to remember the simple game they play can mean so much more. 

14. Rudy: " Are You Hearing Me Clear Enough?"

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    Year:  1993

    Character:  Fortune

    Played by:  Charles S. Dutton

     

    Hey Rudy!  Roc's working to pump you up!

    Fan-favorite shrimp, Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger has received the sobering news that he isn't going to suit up with the starting squad at Notre Dame in his senior year.

    Feeling like the Irish's unluckiest player, he decides to bid the team "bon voyage" in light of the deflating situation. 

    His plan doesn't get far, as he's soon set straight by Notre Dame Stadium's janitor, Fortune, who boldly and sternly tells the dejected Rudy that quitting isn't an option, and he should take pride in everything he's worked hard for and achieved in his life. 

13. Field of Dreams: "People Will Come"

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    Year:  1989

    Character:  Terrence Mann

    Played by:  James Earl Jones

     

    When Darth Vader speaks, you listen.

    Farmer Ray Kinsella is increasingly urged to sell his beloved farmland-turned ball-field to support his family and avoid foreclosure. 

    Recluse author Terrence Mann interrupts with a tale of simpler times, smiling families gathering for the love of the game and a big fat slice of apple-pie-coated Americana, urging Ray to stay put, ensuring "people will come."

    James Earl Jones could read a grocery shopping list and it would sound like poetry, but here his famous velvety voice belts out a home run with this heart-touching and sentimental step into the game we love so much.

12. D2, the Mighty Ducks: "Ducks Fly Together!"

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    Year:  1994

    Character:  Gordon Bombay

    Played by:  Emilio Estevez

     

    Well, in the battle of the Sheen sons, if you picked Emilio Estevez to end up higher over Charlie Sheen, congratulations, you're a winner.

    In the Junior Goodwill Games, Team USA, made up of some of the original Ducks players, has worked their way to the final game against the rough-and-tough team from Iceland. 

    Despite starting solid, Team USA starts to unravel, committing a litany of penalties and sloppy play, frustrating their coach, Gordon Bombay. 

    Sensing the team's imminent failure, Bombay rejuvenates his young players with a motivational locker room speech.  Reminding them the importance of integrity and to take pride in their play.  After a group chant of "Ducks fly together!" the team, in new Ducks jerseys, step out on to the ice to give it their all. 

11. We Are Marshall: "We Cannot Lose!"

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    Year:  2006

    Character:  Jack Lengyel

    Played by:  Matthew McConaughey

     

    In November of 1970, a Southern Airways plane crashed in West Virginia, cutting short the lives of 75 people, including 37 Marshall University football players and members of the coaching staff, crew and athletic department.

    Following these tragic events, the Marshall Thundering Herd avoid an indefinite suspension, gathering together a new young group of players to carry on the program.

    In an emotional speech given by new coach Jack Lengyel on the resting grounds of the late team members, he inspires his young team to rise above the tragedy and play not only for themselves, but for their fallen teammates. 

    Culminating with the now-famous "We are Marshall!" roar, it's a sports film moment that's sure to put a lump in your throat.

    And yes... that is Jack "We Have to Go Back!" Shephard in the background.

10. Knute Rockne, All American: "Win One for the Gipper"

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    Year:  1940

    Character:  Knute Rockne

    Played by:  Pat O'Brien

     

    "The last thing George said to me, 'Rock,' he said, 'sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper."

     

    Listed as the 89th greatest movie quote on AFI's "100 Years, 100 Movie Quotes" list and later used as a political slogan by Ronald Reagan (who portrayed the Gipper in this film), these famous words were said by classic Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne to rally his underdog Irish team to a 12-6 victory over the unbeaten Army team. 

     

     

9. Pride of the Yankees: "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth"

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    Year:  1942

    Character:  Lou Gehrig

    Played by:  Gary Cooper

     

    Hollywood, in all its glitz and glimmer, could try for years and never come close to touching the emotional depth of Lou Gehrig's 1939 farewell speech to a packed Yankee Stadium on a July 4 afternoon. 

    That being said, Gary Cooper's portrayal of Gehrig in the time-honored Pride of the Yankees is a heartfelt telling of one of sport's most iconic players.  Gehrig was a man well aware of his grim fate, and faced it with bravery and unflinching class.

    It all culminates in that famous "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech.  No musical soundtrack needed, just the sound of Cooper's shaky, choked-up voice addressing the weeping crowd makes this a no-brainer as a sports-movie classic moment. 

8. Meatballs: "It Just Doesn't Matter!"

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    Year:  1979

    Character:  Tripper Harrison

    Played by:  Bill Murray

     

    Before he busted ghosts, was lost in translation and repeated the same day over and over, legendary comic actor Bill Murray spent the late '70s in camp. 

    In Murray's debut, the admittedly non-sports Meatballs, he plays Tripper Harrison, a camp counselor at the cut-rate Camp North Star. 

    They take on their rival, Camp Mohawk, a wealthy camp across the lake, in the annual Olympiad events, in which Mohawk is undefeated.  After a first-day trouncing, Harrison gathers the demoralized campers in the lodge, rousing the group with a hilarious speech only Bill Murray could deliver, telling them that win or lose—"it just doesn't matter."  

    Often, films set in the sporting world can inspire us, pull at our heartstrings and make us want to take the world by the throat.  On rare occasions, their charm lies in their ability to simply make us laugh. 

7. Remember the Titans: "Come Together"

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    Year:  2000

    Character:  various

    Played by:  various 

     

    A sports film with so many inspirational sayings and speeches, it was impossible to narrow it down to just one. 

    Remember the Titans, a quintessential high school gridiron flick, includes intense practice sessions, an emotional speech given by Coach Boone, bombastic huddle chants, a moving and mature locker room monologue from a player and a sideline rally that'll bring the hairs on your neck to attention.

    With life lessons and topics that stretch far beyond the playing field, it's a film that inspires in greater ways than just chalkboard X's and O's. 


6. Rudy: "Our House"

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    Year:  1993

    Character:  Coach Dan Devine

    Played by:  Chelcie Ross

     

    Short and sweet, this second clip from Rudy is as simple and moving of a speech as could be.  Filled with a sense of finality, it speaks to the team, the audience and most importantly, to Rudy himself.  This game means everything to him, and this speech only amplifies it.

    Coach Devine speaks of taking pride in the grounds you play on and the place you call home.  For a program deep in tradition such as Notre Dame, coming in and pushing the Irish around on their own turf will be no easy task, and Devine is going to drill that point home. 

    Times change, though.  In 2012, the plan is to keep your opponents laughing at you on the field instead, hoping to catch a slip-up. 

5. Any Given Sunday: "Inch by Inch"

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    Year:  1999

    Character:  Coach Tony D'Amato

    Played by:  Al Pacino

     

    Hoo-ah!

    It's the simplest and most classic premise of a sports movie: Hurting team in a rough spot receives moving speech from their coach in the face of adversity in a bigger-than-life game. 

    Although, Al Pacino's near-perfect delivery in Any Given Sunday is anything but simple.

    Reaching crescendos of emotion, this speech is gritty, dramatic and honest.  It builds with raw power, ending with a "What are you gonna do?" call-to-arms to his now riled-up players. 

    To Coach D'Amato, this isn't a game, it's a war. And he's not leading his team to a field painted with white yardlines, but a battlefield where only one will leave standing. 

4. A League of Their Own: "There's No Crying in Baseball"

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    Year:  1992

    Character:  Manager Jimmy Dugan

    Played by:  Tom Hanks

     

    Sometimes coaches have just the right words for speeches.  They can come from deep down, made to inspire, motivate and turn their players into warriors.

    Well, for Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan, his hilarious speech stems off an impromptu rant on right fielder Evelyn Gardner for a standard misplay on the field. 

    His screaming and tough pro-ball methods don't go over well when Gardner breaks down sobbing on the field, prompting a puzzled Dugan to yell the now-famous saying, "There's no crying in baseball!"

    Really though, simply for the always-charming Rosie O'Donnell being told to "zip it," this was a given for the top five. 

3. Hoosiers: "I Don't Care What the Scoreboard Says"

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    Year:  1986

    Character:  Coach Norman Dale

    Played by:  Gene Hackman

     

    Norman Dale is the basketball coach for Hickory High School, a small team in a tiny school in a rural town that takes their game seriously.

    A rocky road nearly leads to Dale's ousting, but when a rejuvenated Hickory team comes together, they become unstoppable, with production coming even from bench players.

    The classic underdog story leads this unlikely team to a state championship game against a rival South Bend squad.  Dale's fervent words about taking in the grand scale of the game is a lesson not only for sports, but can be carried into life. 

    Plus, you can never, ever underestimate the power of a slow clap. 

2. Friday Night Lights: "Perfect"

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    Year:  2004

    Character:  Coach Gary Gaines

    Played by:  Billy Bob Thornton

     

    Pretty much, you can set any speech to the beautiful sounds of Explosions in the Sky and it will sound like heaven on film.

    In a roller-coaster season, Coach Gaines has lived the peaks and valleys that his high school football team, the Permian Panthers, have faced this season.  His job is constantly on the line, his star player is sidelined, his players face tough times at home. But throughout it all, he has coached his team to a much-heralded playoff spot against a powerhouse Dallas team.

    In a calm, moving and touching halftime speech, Gaines, a father-figure to many of the boys, explains to his team the power in picking up your brother and playing with all of your heart.  He ensures them that perfection doesn't come from scoreboards or wins, it's being able to know you played with integrity and the selflessness that comes with it. 

1. Miracle: "Great Moments Are Born in Great Opportunity"

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    Year:  2004

    Character:  Herb Brooks

    Played by:  Kurt Russell

     

    A story that frankly needs no introduction.

    Miracle, the 2004 film adaptation of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team's extraordinary victory over the Soviet team, features arguably the greatest speech in sports cinema.

    It minces no words.  It's tough, it's intense, it's rooted in reality, making the whole thing all the more moving. 

    Coach Brooks, knowing his team is David facing a juggernaut Goliath, reminds his players that they can win.  The numbers and hype don't account for anything, because this game, these three periods, they belong to his team and they're not giving it up. 

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