Rhetorical Analysis Essay:
For this assignment, I had to perform a careful rhetorical analysis on a single essay, speech, or advertisement and make an argument about how rhetoric is working in the text in question. Additionally, I had to identify the ethos, pathos, and logos associated with the text. For my assignment, I chose coach Herb Brooks' momentous speech he gave to his players before they stepped out on the ice to face off against the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. Before reading my essay here's a link to the iconic speech Herb Brooks gave his players as shown in the movie "Miracle."
“Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that's what you have here tonight, boys. That's what you've earned here, tonight. One game. If we played 'em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with 'em. Tonight, we stay with 'em, and we shut them down because we can! Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players -- every one of ya. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time -- is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw 'em! This is your time!!”
Coach Herb Brooks’ inspirational speech that he gave to his players before the semi-final game between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics served as a catalyst leading to a classic David and Goliath story, a story in which the United States team was able to defeat the Soviet Union, who at that time were seen as arguably the best hockey team in the world. Many have seen this event as somewhat of a miracle, hence the event later being coined, “The Miracle on Ice.” Herb Brooks was not only the coach of the United States Men’s Ice Hockey Team who helped lead the United States to a gold medal that year, but was seen as a hockey icon who revolutionized the game from the ground up. It was this speech, as shown in the movie “Miracle,” that helped drive the United States team, a team comprised of mainly inexperienced collegiate hockey players that were not even predicted to advance beyond pool play, to victory against the USSR. Herb Brooks’ use of ethos, pathos, and delivery in his speech was what inspired the team to exceed expectations and served as a catalyst in changing history.
Before the beginning of the game, Herb Brooks presented the players with a “great opportunity,” an opportunity to defy expectations and show the world that they are “the greatest hockey team in the world.” Although the likelihood of winning under normal circumstances was minute, the United States was able to overcome the Soviet Union against all odds and secure not only a victory in the semi-final game but ultimately win a gold medal, which is an outstanding achievement in it of itself. During this time, the United States was on the brink of war with the Soviet Union, both in terms of the Cold War as well as fighting for innovation in space exploration. For the citizens of the United States, it was truly more than just a hockey game, and Herb Brooks’ speech alluded to this.
The 1980’s were a time of gridlock, in which tensions arose between the Soviet Union and the United States. Although the Cold War never featured direct military action, both sides possessed nuclear weapons, and it seemed as if the threat of nuclear war was imminent. In addition to the battle for supremacy within the realm of nuclear weapons, the United States and the Soviet Union also battled for authority in space exploration. The Cold War would become the great engine, the supreme catalyst that sent rockets far above Earth and into space. This continued political, military, economic, and technological tension between these two countries culminated in the semi-final game between both countries during the Olympics.
As the head coach of his team, Herb Brooks was seen as somewhat of a father figure that the players looked up to. He provided guidance and support, and this was the sense of ethos or character that he portrayed. Although his character was more rigid and tough, he truly cared for his players, and brought this across with every piece of advice he provided. Often Brooks’ would make strange expressions that were known by his players as “Brooksisms.” Although they were predominantly negative and pessimistic comments, the hope was that they would create a burning desire within his players, allowing them to perform at and beyond their peak ability. He often said things like “You're playing worse and worse every day and right now you're playing like it's next month” and “this team isn't talented enough to win on talent alone." These remarks were not made to discourage his players, but rather to motivate them to work harder and be better players as well as citizens.
His use of rhetoric as well as the development of his hybrid technique, which melded the methodical American/Canadian style and the faster European styles of hockey, helped the United States ultimately become an effective team that was able to shut down their opponents. In his speech he explains that this team is unique and that they “were born to be hockey players, every [single] one of [them].” With a genuine fear of nuclear war evident, Brooks’ speech along with the United States victory alluded to the ultimate defeat and end of the Soviet Union, which served as a beacon of hope for America as well as the rest of the world.
Pathos is another aspect that affected his speech, and in turn, allowed the players to perform beyond their expected abilities. Pathetic proofs appeal to human emotion and refer to the arousal or expression of emotions. Herb Brooks’ emotions in his speech relayed a sense of passion, intensity, and caring. The hope was that his anger would inspire his players and would give them the confidence to perform above and beyond their abilities. His wisdom provided a sense of reassurance and belief to his players as they got set to play one of the most important games in their life. He instilled the idea that his players “were meant to be there” and are a part of “the greatest hockey team in the world.” It was his pathos and ethos that positively affected his players and gave them the necessary push needed to defeat the Soviet Union. His speech alluded to the responsibility the team bore in regards to the conflict from the Cold War and the Space Race, ultimately showing that this was more then just a game to many Americans.
The final aspect that really provided the icing on the cake in regards to motivating his players was his delivery. Although we never actually see his locker room speech from 1980, the movie “Miracle,” directed by Gavin O’Connor presents Herb Brooks’ iconic speech right before the climactic game between both teams. Kurt Russell played as Herb Brooks in the movie, and his performance throughout the movie and especially in this scene was truly chilling. The way he used inflections to emphasize major points like as well as his tone provided an intensity that is unmatched by any other sports movie. His performance was comparable to a piece of music, in which there was a clear beginning, middle, and end. His voice created a crescendo that ended the scene with “This is your time!! Now go out there and take it!” Herb Brooks’ speech, which he hand wrote before, has inspired millions of people trying to pursue their dreams, just as it inspired those young college hockey players.
Hockey icon Herb Brooks revolutionized the game of hockey, and it was this speech that changed everything, not just for the sport of ice hockey, but also for the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. His use of ethos, pathos, and delivery within his rhetoric made him an effective coach that pushed his players beyond their limits. His speech before the semi-final game between the United States showed his players that this was more than just a game, and in some sense a war, in which it was imperative that one side or the other would prevail. With the United States winning against the Soviets, it inspired hope among millions of Americans and was a catalyst that led to the end of gridlock between both countries. Eventually the USSR dissolved altogether. Herb Brooks’ was one of the greatest coaches in the history of hockey, and what he did will never be forgotten.