Saturday, February 26, 2011

Backfield in Motivation

"Covey hands off to Lombardi ... Lombardi passes to Pacino ... touchdown!"
Some call it the greatest motivational speech in film history. Others become nauseated by the notion of millionaire jocks struggling with existential crisis.

We're talking, of course, about Al Pacino's impassioned, spittle-flying pregame soliloquy from "Any Given Sunday."

Business executives love this clip. They've even been known to make it the centerpiece of presentations intended to fire up the troops (often as a prelude to the arrival of really, really, really bad news). The appeal is no secret. Pacino's character, the embattled coach of a professional football team comprised of mentally unstable dirtbags, digs deep into his psychological playbook and comes up with pure, cliched gold.

The team has been torn apart by strife, jealousy and player wives who think they're Lady Macbeth. However, the coach assures his charges that they can overcome any adversity as long as they pull together and sacrifice for the greater good. (Business translation: unpaid overtime, salary cuts, etc.)

By the end of the speech, the locker room is electrified with inspiration. The Miami Sharks take the field ready to unleash all that simmering homoeroticism and redeem themselves.

But what happens next? Well, let's just say that executives aren't big fans of spoilers.

Pacino's team does win the game. In the process, though, two aging superstars suffer career-ending injuries and a member of the opposing team loses an eyeball. The Sharks go on to lose the next contest and get knocked out of the playoffs. Then Pacino announces that he's quitting to join an expansion franchise -- and taking with him the prima donna quarterback who caused most of the Sharks' headaches in the first place.

In the world of the real-life workplace, bittersweet details get lost on the cutting room floor. Or in the shredder.


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