Any Given Sunday gave us one of the great sports movie speeches of all time: Al Pacino’s dramatic “inch by inch” address. As Bill Simmons and Chris Ryan explain on the latest Sports Movie Podcast, it might even be THE greatest of all time. Pacino delivered, and the movie is the latest entry into our Sports Movie Hall of Fame.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed. You can find a full transcript of Pacino’s speech at the end of this post.
It Doesn’t Matter That It’s Over the Top
Bill Simmons: I thought everybody agreed that this was one of the great sports movie scenes of all time.
Chris Ryan: Is there some disagreement about that?
Simmons: I think there’s slight disagreement. I think people think it’s an overrated speech.
Ryan: Well, it’s over the top. The thing that makes this speech is the fact that it’s TMI. He goes and he’s like … “I’ve pissed away all my money.”
Ryan: “Believe or not.”
Simmons: “I’ve driven away everyone who loved me.”
Ryan: I believe it. If you play your money the way you play your offense, you should probably piss it away. And then he’s like, “Everybody who’s ever loved me, I’ve pushed ’em away.” Can you imagine your coach all of a sudden giving you all of this information about [himself]?
Simmons: I wanted him to go further with it. “My breath smells like an ashtray. I can’t get an erection.”
Ryan: “Jack Rose says that I’m a fossil.”
Is It Based on a Real Speech?
Ryan: It’s reportedly based on a Marty Schottenheimer speech, right? That’s the rumor?
Simmons: Yeah, so I looked at that. Granted, we’re getting some of our information from the internet. Lord knows, especially when you go to IMDb trivia, we could put up stuff there and who knows if it would stick. But they said it was a Marty Schottenheimer 1989 Cleveland Browns speech that it was based on.
Ryan: But Marty Schottenheimer’s speech was like, “One day, my son Brian is going to ruin the Jets.”
Simmons: “When you’re out here, we’re going to lose with 20 seconds left. We got this, guys.”
But there’s no record of that [Schottenheimer] speech on YouTube. I looked.
Bottom Line: The Speech Is Effective
Simmons: But when you see it all written down … it’s pretty effective, man. He has this one part, “You know, when you get old in life, things get taken from you. That’s part of life, but you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s a game of inches. So is football.” I started thinking about it like, yeah, man, start losing stuff. It is about the inches.
Ryan: Yeah, as you get older, sure.
Simmons: The inches are all around, Chris Ryan.
Ryan: And it’s nice, too, because after this movie is so cartoonish for all of it, it just becomes very human. That’s actually what Friday Night Lights did, was take that halftime speech —
Simmons: And turn it into an entire television show.
Ryan: And then say, “Why don’t we make it the whole thing?” Where football is as important as life and life is as important as football and everybody who’s involved lives and dies with each other. And it’s not like contracts and this and that and the other thing.
Simmons: It wraps up the whole movie.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s really good.
It’s the Best Sports Movie Speech Ever
Simmons: The other thing that’s frustrating about it is [Oliver] Stone, as we discussed earlier, mangles the dinner scene, which should have been better. But in this scene, he just leaves it alone and lets Pacino act.
Ryan: And he actually does do a couple of subtle things. Like, he’ll cut and you’ll keep hearing Pacino’s voice, but it’ll be another shot of Pacino, kind of like reacting or sighing or something. It’s very effective.
Do you like this speech better than the Billy Bob [Thornton] speech in the Friday Night Lights movie?
Simmons: Oh, fuck yeah. I think this is the best speech that’s ever been given in a sports movie.
There’s another [great speech] in this movie called Vision Quest that probably nobody has seen. At the end of Vision Quest, Matthew Modine doesn’t know if he’s going to wrestle Shute. The whole movie is about Matthew Modine, who’s a wrestler who drops all this weight to wrestle Shute. And he’s friends with this chef at the hotel that he works with. The girl that he’s dating splits and he decides he doesn’t want to go through with the match. Who the hell knows, it’s an ’80s movie plot. He goes to see the chef. And the chef’s getting dressed. Do you remember this?
Simmons: And he’s like, “You’re coming to this?” And he’s like, “Hell yeah I’m coming. I took the day off.” And then he tells this whole story that he watched this Pelé soccer game and Pelé scored and fans are crying and he was crying. Modine says something like, “It’s six minutes. It’s six minutes on the mat,” and he [the chef] is like, “It’s not the six minutes, it’s what happens in the six minutes.”
That’s as good as this. But this is longer and it’s filmed better. It also tied up the movie, because the whole movie the team’s not on the same page, right?
Simmons: I mean, if they had made this movie correctly and it was two hours, it’s really a movie about a team that’s split. It’s got a fucked-up owner. It’s got this old-quarterback, new-quarterback thing. It’s got the offensive coordinator breathing down the head coach’s neck. LL Cool J and Jamie Foxx don’t get along. LT’s mad at everybody. But then, the speech, he ties everyone together and is like, “You gotta be willing to die for the guy next to you.”
Ryan: Yeah. “That’s the only way you win.”
Simmons: But this speech could have been terrible.
Ryan: Oh yeah.
Simmons: Which is why I think it’s so good. This really could have been like the end of Pacino’s career if it’s wrong.