“Inch by Inch” speech in the movie Any Given Sunday is delivered by Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), the protagonist. In the movie’s context, D’Amato is a sports coach of the Miami Sharks, a once-great NFL team who face hard times. D’Amato’s speech addresses the players before the big game. His purpose is to rile up the Sharks to unite efforts as a team and disregard differences and internal disagreements. To achieve his aim, D’Amato employs the rhetorical means of persuasion ethos, pathos, and logos, and uses a recurring theme of inches. It helps him make his speech rational, emotional, credible, and easy to grasp, so the speech has a great effect and the Sharks eventually win the game.

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D’Amato’s use of ethos in the speech helps him build his credibility in the eyes of the Miami Sharks players. Ethos, as once defined by Aristotle in his work On Rhetoric, is a means of persuasion that aims at establishing the speaker’s credibility and “is contingent on the evaluation of his or her reasoning and trustworthiness.” (Heath & O’Hair 270) In Any Given Sunday, D’Amato establishes his reputation at the very beginning of the speech by starting off in a way that implies ethos. Namely, first D’Amato identifies himself with the rest of the team hoping to reflect what they might be feeling at the moment. He achieves this by saying “I do not know what to say really” (Any Given Sunday).

Next, by describing himself in a way that presents him as an old man who has seen a lot in his life, the character does not undermine his reputation, as it may seem. Rather, the coach implies that he is an old professional with a baggage of experience (Any Given Sunday). Admittedly, the old age is a mark of wisdom, life experience, and credibility. D’Amato’s examples of his life mistakes serve him well here: by admitting his errors D’Amato shows that he has lived through lots of disappointing things, but managed to learn from his life mistakes. This adds up to his reputation as a wise person who knows what he is talking about and is worthy of listening to. Besides, by saying that he “made very wrong choice a middle aged man could make” and acknowledging that he has “pissed away all his money”, D’Amato again identifies himself with his audience (Any Given Sunday). The character shows that he is just like everyone on the Miami Sharks, but (importantly!), with a greater experience due to his old age. This helps him make his speech credible.

Next, D’Amato’s use of pathos in the speech helps him appeal to the emotions of his audience. As Brennen defined it, pathos is about arousing the emotions in audience members via the use of words and vivid description (Brennen 205). In the “Inch by Inch” speech, the coach effectively uses a number of rhetorical devices to affect the emotions of his team. One of the most easily identifiable rhetorical devices employed by D’Amato is his use of vocal variety.

Vocal variety is a rhetorical device which involves the changes of the rate, volume, and pitch by a speaker in order to give his voice expressiveness and variety. It is believed that “the drama added by vocal variety can ordinary speech into an exceptional one” (“Role of Language/Vocal Variety”). The coach changes the tone for a few times during his speech. D’Amato starts in a calm and seemingly relaxed manner. His talk is slow and even hesitant. Yet, word by word D’Amato increases his speed and enhances the volume. As he is talking about his mistakes, he sounds a bit sterner. After that D’Amato starts speaking powerfully and almost yells. This helps him stir the players’ emotions. The coach takes his audience up and town for two more times. Eventually, he makes his voice sound soft and calm again as if he wants to calm them down (Any Given Sunday).

The emotions of D’Amato’s audience are bursting out as he finishes his speech. The effect is great: at the most powerful moment, before D’Amato calms down, you yourself feel like putting on your outfit, taking your helmet, and running out in the field! It may seem that the calming ending is unnecessary; however, it has its own meaning in terms of pathos, too. By speaking softly at the end, D’Amato seems to suppress his energy as if he wants to make his audience realize that all what he says is to be achieved by them, the players. His message is “I’m only your coach, but to take the action and win is your business”. In addition to voice variety, the coach uses gestures and eye contact to make his speech emotional and compelling.

Further, to appeal to the players’ emotions, D’Amato uses a range of rhetorical figures. These include anaphoras, hyperboles, alliteration, metaphors, parallelism, rhetorical questions, and antitheses. One example of anaphora is the recurring use of the phrase “on this team”; an example of a the hyperbole is “or we will die as individuals”; alliteration – “big battle”; metaphor – “life is just a game of inches”; parallelism and antithesis – “I mean one half step too late or too early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it”; and, finally, an example of a rhetorical question is “What are you gonna do?” (Any Given Sunday)

Logos, too, plays an important role in generating the rhetorical effect of the speech delivered by D’Amato. Logos refers to appealing to the skills of reasoning in the audience (Brennen 205). The most powerful example of the use of this rhetorical means is the logical conclusion of the speech: “That’s a team, gentlemen. And either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die, as individuals” (Any Given Sunday). Besides, D’Amato employs logos in his numerous comparisons of life and game. By deliberately repeating this comparison and providing a logical explanation to it, he appeals to the audience’s rational knowledge of game and ability to follow his reasoning. What is more, the speech has a logical structure (it starts with the confession and ends with the conclusion “all of us are a team and should work together”).

Finally, the use of the recurring theme of inches helps D’Amato keep the focus on the key message to the team. By evoking this image in a repeated manner, the character wants to implant the understanding of the importance of super effort in achieving success in his audience. The theme holds all other rhetorical devices together and makes them play. As a result, the coach reaches his audience’s minds and hearts. The Miami Sharks win their “biggest battle”.

  • Any Given Sunday. Dir. Oliver Stone. Perf. Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz. Warner Bros., 1999. DVD.
  • Brennen, Bonnie. Qualitative Research Methods for Media Studies. Routledge, 2012. Print. Heath, Robert & O’Hair, Dan. Handbook of Risk and Crisis Communication. Routledge,
    2008. Print.
  • “Role of Language/ Vocal Variety”. N.d. Web. 30 October 2013.