#3: “TODAY, I CONSIDER MYSELF THE LUCKIEST MAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH…”
Football has definitely taken over baseball’s place as the most popular sport in the American imagination, but for all that, what James Earl Jones says in Field of Dreams is still true—
“America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers…but baseball has marked the time.”
It has likewise supplied us with its fair share of motivational speeches—and then some.
The heyday of Capone and Chicago gangsters coincides with the Black Sox Scandal, when the World Series was fixed, so much so that the incident is even referenced in one of the most influential and internationally-renowned works of American literature ever, The Great Gatsby.
Think of the Roaring Twenties, and Babe Ruth comes to mind.
The Civil Rights Movement from the late 1940s through the 1960s, and Jackie Robinson’s name simply has to be mentioned.
Think of 9/11, and then think of Mike Piazza’s hitting a home run in extra innings to win the first, most emotional game played after the attacks on the World Trade Center for the New York Mets—and indeed, for all New York City.
And when you think of facing up to personal adversity, and great inspirational speeches, you have to think of Lou Gehrig. Finding out he had ALS—later nicknamed Lou Gehrig’s Disease—and that his baseball career was over and, indeed, his very life was threatened by a disease for which we still have no cure, Gehrig could easily have retreated into a word of self-pity and sadness. It would have been completely human, and completely understandable.
Instead, what does he say?
“I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”
That’s beyond merely looking on the bright side. Rather, it’s an example of something which fails even the best of us at times—the ability to be grateful for that which we do have, and have accomplished thus far. With every reason to feel and express discontent, Gehrig expresses gratitude instead.
Gary Cooper delivers a dramatization of the speech in the film The Pride of the Yankees, based on Gehrig’s life, career, and ultimate struggle with ALS, but as fantastic an actor as he is, nothing can match Gehrig’s original motivational speech, as spoken by The Iron Horse himself.