ESPN, NFLN should work with Hall of Famers to shorten, improve speeches

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Four years ago, former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith stole the show at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony with a speech that represented a sharp and dramatic turn from his prior on-air blunders at ESPN.  Emmitt worked hard to craft the right speech and to rehearse its delivery.  The effort paid off with a credible, heartfelt exclamation point on his career.

On Saturday night, the exclamation points were few and far between, lost in a sea of meandering words and stiffly-read prepared text.

The first rule of public speaking is to be brief.  The second rule is to be yourself.  The third rule is to be brief.

Some, like Michael Strahan, were authentic.  But, like the other six, the remarks went on for way too long.

Yes, these men have earned the right to filibuster through a nationally-televised broadcast, if they choose to do it.  But if they want their Hall of Fame speeches to be remembered for anything other than they fact that it seemed like those speeches would never end, they need to be brief.

It’s easier said than done.  Which means that the two networks who hope to translate the event into an entertaining TV show should work far more closely with the Hall of Famers to convey their thoughts and to deliver them in the most concise yet engaging way possible.

Strahan wisely acknowledged the role of the fans in making the game what it is.  Fans watch football because it’s an enjoyable experience.  Watching middle-aged-and-older men slip into a rambling monologue with no broader message or theme or end in sight isn’t enjoyable for anyone except the person delivering the speech.

For the Hall of Famers, it’s hard to balance sensitivity to the audience with a desire to bask in the rekindled glory of an NFL career that ended at least five years earlier (or, for some, a lot longer than that).  Which means that someone needs to do it for them, coaching them and coaxing them and ultimately persuading them to:  (1) be brief; (2) be themselves; and (3) be brief.

Several years ago, the Hall of Fame pulled the plug on the oft-excruciating speeches from those who present the men for enshrinement, adopting a pre-produced feature that weaves highlights and narration with words from the friend, coach, teammate, or family member.  And the end result is a lot better than it used to be.  The next challenge for the Hall of Fame and those who televise the ceremony becomes finding a way to make the speeches shorter and better.  And shorter.

73 responses to “ESPN, NFLN should work with Hall of Famers to shorten, improve speeches

  1. its people celebrating a lifetime of hard work, and achievement. if it’s entertainment level isn’t up to your high standards just don’t watch. not everything in the world is, or should be tailored to your whims. just turn the channel.

  2. Agreed. Why not help them produce a speech that allows them to couple their soul searching need for gratitude and their desire to be remembered and appreciated properly in the best light.

  3. This article makes a valid point, but how does one distinguish the Strahan speeches from the other guys … IN ADVANCE?

    In Stray’s case, we all know he’s a compelling speaker — but often, the speech will sneak up on ya a little bit.

    I’m not sure coaching is the answer, but you may have hinted at it – by having the production crew create a highlights presentation.

    Let those guys who gave their “blood, sweat, tears and toil” (my apologies, Sir Winston) to the cause to have the full extent of their day in the sun. This is THEIR day — NOT our day. But the broadcast can be trimmed a tad to ensure the maximum impact of the enshrinees. Alternatively, they can over the live version AND the production-edited version — and let viewers pick their poison.

  4. Awww come on, man. These guys have earned their podium time by what they did in their time on football fields. I’m sorry it’s not all media savvy, but moments like entering the pro football Hall of Fame are not just one in a lifetime events – they’re once in every million lifetimes events, that’s how few people ever get that honor.

    When media coverage of an event becomes more important than the event itself, you devalue the event. Give the guys their spotlight one more time. They’re earned it.

  5. I agree with the article. I felt kind of embarrassed for a few of them. Strahan is a natural, so to him it was easy. The others rambled on, and at times it was incoherent nonsense.

  6. Want to improve the ceremonies?Get someone else instead of Berman to be the host

  7. And be like all the other stupid award shows. I remember Sinatra getting the mic cut for a lifetime achievement award, disgraceful. Let these guys have thier say, other than Strahan, we wont be hearing much from the others anytime soon.

  8. God forbid Jon Gruden ever gets elected. The ceremony would spill over till the game on Sunday.

  9. So Mike, you’re saying the speeches are too long?

    Actually, I have to agree with you. I understand these guys have earned their place and that I can turn the channel but being a Southern Baptist I can certainly understand the impatience with “speeches” that go on way too long.

  10. Here goes the four letter network again trying to control the sports world!
    These men have achieved the ultimate in their careers…let them say what they want for as long as they want!

  11. I avoid this “problem” by not attending or not listening to the speeches. Football can’t start soon enough…

  12. These guys are grateful and want to acknowledge any help they got along the way. We get that.

    However, a cardinal rule of public speaking is: Stand up, speak up, shut up and sit down.

    Leave the audience wishing you had spoken for hours, rather than cursing the fact that you did.

  13. Wait til 15-20 years when the illiterate millenials make their way to the podium…..through twitter or whatever brain numbing social network exists at that point…

  14. I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s their day, let them talk as long as they want. Change the channel if you don’t like it.

  15. Honestly, this trend of award ceremonies becoming and bigger and bigger feature of the sports off season is a little odd to me. If I wanted to watch acceptance speeches and trophies being handed out for personal achievement, id watch the Oscars or Golden Globes. Sports is about to be about on the field entertainment. I understand the HOF is the higest of all honors in sports, but in terms of sports interest and how they were covered, it was mainly about announcing who was inducted, and who snubbed. Not 3 or 4 hour long telecasts showing their induction speeches.

  16. I had no problem with them whatsoever. And I love whenever old heads (Humphrey) shed light on their years, which pre-date my years of watching NFL (1985-present). You get to learn things, and learn about who those guys really are as people, not just players.

    The only dull and uninteresting speech was Andre Reed’s (until he got to Jim Kelly), the rest were fine being longwinded, especially Brooks and Strahan. Jones was a bit shaky and uncomfortable, but big oxen like him are not accustomed to doing much public speaking anyway.

    If anything, we need to break away from the tendencies of this ADHD generation, not continue to cater to it, thereby exacerbating the problem.

  17. Let them say whatever they want for however long they want. These guys worked like crazy to be recognized as the nest of the best. It is THEIR day, not your’s. Don’t like it? Don’t watch.

  18. “Yes, these men have earned the right to filibuster through a nationally-televised broadcast, if they choose to do it.”

    That right there really should be the end of the discussion…

  19. Being allowed to speak as much as you want is one thing, but is it really helping the speaker or the audience to take full advantage of that privilege if they don’t have a well constructed speech? Speeches should be as long as you have something that is relevant and meaningful to say, and with hopefully not diluting the potency of the overall message of the speech.

    If you are going to speak for a long time, just please make sure it’s a great speech first!

  20. who cares ?

    anyone who watched it — except for hardcore fans of the inductees’ teams — was wasting their time.

    and for the hardcore fans, the speeches were worth it.

    watching this stuff is like watching the draft, combine or pre-season — a waste of time.

  21. Last night was about those men being inducted not the fans. If you didn’t want to see retired football players go on and on about their careers, family, friends, coaches and teammates then you shouldn’t have watched the program.

  22. The Hall of Fame ceremony is basically this: It’s “by them, for them”.

    It’s not for us. The mistake isn’t anything with the ceremony, the mistake is this insitance that it now be entertaining.

    I guess it needs scantily clad tv hosts who insist on being taken seriously, car chases and a few explosions for good measure.

    Rather insensitive post.

  23. Is this about tv ratings or about the men that earned their bust in Canton? Enough about the tv viewing enjoyament it’s about the HOF. Don’t watch!

  24. growing up in the 70’s and 80’s and hearing classic hof speeches, the new era of hof’ers lack a lot. thats just my opinion. refer back to bud grant’s speech when he tells how his dad told him if he ever has to give a speech at an auspicious ocasion. he hits it right on the head.

  25. Emmitt’s speech was a little too short. He failed to mention the University of Florida or anyone involved in his college career, which kind of pissed off Gator Nation.

    He later apologized for the omission and still attends many UF games.

  26. Soon – maybe already – watching sports will be like watching a sitcom. Who do you think makes all those big heads and designed posters for the background of the College Gameday set – the kids holding them or ESPN? To this article, they’ve already ruined the real emotion of the nomination speeches, fitting that they go on to the acceptance speeches. Fine to suggest limiting the time of their speech in advance, but once at the podium, it is what it is (or should be).

  27. I can honestly say that I have never seen an entire hof speech. They can talk all dam day.. Hof is watered down waste of time anyway.

  28. I think the speeches were fine, they are trying to acknowledge a lifetime of accomplishments.

    Let’s talk about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics…talk about long and BORING speeches and video pieces!!!!

  29. The networks should cover the event, not control the content. These Hall of Famers have earned the right to say what they want How they want to. Show them the proper amount of respect and listen.

  30. Knowing this ESPN should simply block out a larger block of time, let these men have their moment, not everything and everyone on TV has to be perfectly crafted and polished.

    If ESPN has a problem with it I’m sure some other outlet will gladly televise the ceremony.

    It was still better than watching baseball.

  31. Here’s a great idea!
    Why doesn’t the NFL hire a lawyer to write the HOF speeches? After all, they already write all the “player’s statements” that are released by teams after a player transgression now!
    Does anyone know where we can find a lawyer to help?

  32. Just wait until Beastmode gets in…. 30 seconds of the hoodie and maybe a grunt or two and he’ll be done. If he bothers to show up.

    Mike, will you complain about that, too?


  33. How about giving the inductees a clock??

    After all, even without a clock emmitt smith forgot to thank the university of Florida and another hall of Famer forgot to mention his wife.

  34. Because talking “insider” heads on Football Night in America never drone on…

  35. jshawaii22 says:
    Aug 3, 2014 5:05 PM
    Just wait until Beastmode gets in…. 30 seconds of the hoodie and maybe a grunt or two and he’ll be done. If he bothers to show up.

    Mike, will you complain about that, too?

    Marshawn Lynch make the HOF????
    BWAHAAAHAAA! That’s a good one!!!!

  36. Let them talk, it is their moment, their time and they should be able to do what they want. Though I may be in the minority.

    I am in the military, so I have sat or stood through a few retirement speeches, not quite the same but close in that it is a closing of an important part of life. I never get upset if someone talks for a while, they earned.

    I do plan for mine to be shorter, speaking in front of people is part of my job, for some it isn’t. Some people get nervous and a few days of coaching won’t overcome that.

  37. rdrfan says:
    Aug 3, 2014 5:13 PM
    Ray Guy did a great job. It all sounded real . He didn’t ramble on and on.

    Even if he did ramble on, then fine. But I see through this statement for what it is.

  38. I didn’t have a problem with it at all, even though at times I was thinking man these are long. But they didn’t bore me one bit. You know it’s hard to give a 20 minute speech because of all the trials and tribulations these men endured on their way to the hof. Maybe it’s just just me, but this year’s class was one of the best in terms of their speeches. I enjoyed every single one. Each speech had a different perspective because they all had completely different careers which made it interesting.

  39. There used to a show called “The Gong Show”If a performance was out of hand,they got either the hook(a literal rod with a hook on the end) or a big loud gong.

    If there speak is really bad or goes on too long let the speaker see the big hook and he’ll speed it up.

    Incidentally none of the inductees were out of line last night except maybe Ray Guy reading word for word from his notes.

  40. On Saturday night, the exclamation points were few and far between, lost in a sea of meandering words and stiffly-read prepared text.

    The first rule of public speaking is to be brief. The second rule is to be yourself. The third rule is to be brief.


    Oh please…Sorry these guys bored you. When you make it to the HOF then you can work on making the perfect speech. I hate to burst your bubble but these speeches are not for sports writers/critics, they’re for the inductees’ family, friends, coaches, & teammates who have helped them achieve their goals.

    I caught part of Claude Humphrey’s speech & guess what??? He was rambling so I turned it off. Let it go. No one is holding a gun to your head to watch them.

  41. ‘i, flounder says: Aug 3, 2014 3:09 PM

    its people celebrating a lifetime of hard work, and achievement. if it’s entertainment level isn’t up to your high standards just don’t watch. not everything in the world is, or should be tailored to your whims. just turn the channel.’

    i, flounder,

    Couldn’t agree more.

  42. Andre’s Johnson says:
    Aug 3, 2014 4:53 PM
    Didn’t read the article. Just skimmed. Too long and boring.
    Instant Classic!

  43. Yeah. Lets let the media and advertising dictate EVERYTHING including HOF speeches that probably shouldn’t be televised and made into a big commercial joke anyways…

  44. I could not disagree more with the premise of this article. News flash: The ceremony is for the inductees, not the viewers. The TV folks think they can profit off it so they air it. Great, but that is where their interests and influence should end. No breaks for commercials or any other such nonsense. Work around the event rather than try to have the event work around a TV schedule that is meaningless to them. For this, the TV pundits and even the viewers don’t matter much at all in the grand scheme of things.

  45. For a guy that is a lawyer, you get so much so wrong. The HOFamers were entertainers on the field, the enshrinement ceremony is not intended for the typical viewing audience. It is not the Academy Awards. Strahan and Smith are paid to speak on-air and should have some skill at public speaking. “Second rule is be yourself” is contradicted by having someone else write it! I doubt the goal of the speakers is to give a memorable speech but rather a heartfelt acknowledement to those that helped them along the way – how you touch those closest to you is way more important than impressing some stupid pundit.

  46. I love the speeches. I even liked the presenters’ speeches when they still did that. It’s one of my favorite NFL related events of the year. I also like long form interviews and podcasts. It’s because I have an attention span. Not your cup of tea? Don’t watch it.

  47. Couldnt disagree more with this article. I absolutely loved all of the speeches. Only part i didnt care for was Aeneas Williams 2 sides of the stadium chants.

    I enjoy hearing these Hall of Famers thank all of the people that helped them along the way. Its great hearing their story and their stories. Seemed like most of their parents sacrificed alot for them along the way. Loved hearing them overcome their hardships and hard circumstances to get to the pinnacle of their careers.

    Never gets old or its never too long hearing their speeches. If you listen closely, as opposed to watching the clock, you just may learn something.

  48. Why? You media types decided to put it on tv and make more money from it? Right? Let these men and their families celebrate as long as they want to, say whatever they want to… It’s an achievement of a lifetime that only 200+ players have been able to reach out of thousands of former NFL players

  49. Get out of here. You want someone’s lifetime achievement award speech to be scripted?? Who cares if the speeches are boring. It’s not about you. Its about them working hard and getting to the level of greatness. If you’re bored, change the channel. Whoever wrote this is selfish.

  50. I agree wholeheartedly with Florio here. Yes they’ve earned the right to say whatever they want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. But hey this is why I never watch the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It’s too boring.

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