This week’s Sunday Cinema and Blackhawks Blend looks at the 1999 Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday. It’s a very real look at professional sports and follows the story of a young quarterback and his aging, burned out coach. The movie is likely remembered more for the locker room speech that Al Pacino gives as Coach Tony D’Amato, a one-time successful coach who has seen his best years fade away.
The team is middling, watching its legendary quarterback (played by Dennis Quaid) break down and a younger, flashy but often arrogant quarterback (played by Jamie Foxx) leading the team in his way. But the latter loses his teammates support after his great play lures endorsement deals and media attention. He goes from a modest third-string quarterback to a cocky starter–who forgets his role on the team.
But for those failures, Foxx’s Willie Beaman speaks truth to his aging coach about having to evolve and having to break from what isn’t working. Though they disagree, and Beaman learns his own hard truths after his team gives up on him during a crucial game, the exchange leads to D’Amato’s rousing speech that inspires the team to an upset playoff victory.
It’s the words of the speech, though, that remain the focus for today’s blend.
The Speech From Any Given Sunday
It won’t be in its full glory because it’s best read in the context of its scene–or after watching the movie again as it builds to the moment. But for the relevance of it, D’Amato talks about how in life, we only really notice that we’re losing things until they’re taken from us–especially as we age. He speaks about his failures, and then about how football, like life, is a game of inches. That clawing and fighting and even struggling for that final inch really sees the difference between winning and losing. But it’s the final part that stands out:
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 fort his 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 all die as individuals. That’s football guys. That’s all it is. Now what are you going to do?
Though it utilizes the sport of football, it certainly can apply to hockey, too.
The Blackhawks and Embracing the All-In Mentality
After writing the piece on Connor Bedard’s odds of winning the Calder, I thought more about what Chicago is trying to build with Bedard in the fold. It’s what inspired today’s blend.
Bleacher Nation’s Tab Bamford also made a great point:
A case could easily be made to put a couple dollars on Luke Hughes in Jersey… fwiw
— Tab Bamford (@The1Tab) July 29, 2023
That’s also a correct assessment. Luke Hughes has a fully stocked team waiting for him and it could very well equate to a great season for him. Ultimately, it goes back to the team.
But the comparison from the speech isn’t that there’s consternation within the Blackhawks roster or that they need that singular goal to win. It’s simply that at the end of the day, players are defined by the team they’re a part of. Ultimately, the team rises and falls as a unit instead of an individual.
For all of the accolades that Bedard has brought in for himself, he’s always deferred to the team. Of those inches needed to win, he knows it’s the sum of all parts. He arrives in Chicago with the pressure of being a top pick along with the generational tag. But he doesn’t need the rousing speech or anyone to tell him what the truth is: they will win and lose as a team–no matter what he does individually on the ice.
The Blackhawks development camp setup was one that also emphasized the team mentality over the individual. It will be a trying season at times, perhaps similar to what Chicago experienced during the 2006-07 campaign where they began their rise. But at least it won’t be last season–which certainly saw its lows without any guarantees it would net the top pick.
In the end, it did. Now they’re embarking on the next step, both in Chicago and with prospects beyond, who the organization hopes fight for that inch together someday. While it was Bedard throwing out that first pitch at Wrigley following the draft, he was joined by many the Blackhawks selected to be with him on the ice down the road. The hope? The Stanley Cup.
But it ultimately starts by building the core, learning to win through losing, and then banding together to figure out how to scale the proverbial mountain as a unit.
As Pacino delivered in his gravelly voice, that’s a team, gentlemen.
CHN Top 10
- Chairman Rocky Wirtz passes away at age 70
- Rocky Wirtz’s impact on the Blackhawks was immeasurable, but it certainly had some moments he likely wanted back
- Similar in game and temperament, might Jonathan Toews go the Patrice Bergeron route to retirement?
- A prospects deep dive looks at Blackhawks goalies in the pipeline
- A mid-summer’s ranking has the Blackhawks where you’d likely expect
- Sam Savoie was never worried about a contract. Now he’s got one.
- Nick Lardis worshipped Patrick Kane as a kid. Now he’s trying to emulate his idol as he tries to get to Chicago
- Logan Cooley won’t be a teammate now with Sam Rinzel and Oliver Moore at Minnesota. But he’s likely facing off against Connor Bedard in October in a clash of top rookies
- Speaking of Bedard, he leads bets in winning the Calder
- Some Blackhawks to help your Puckdoku game