Editor’s note: This was a speech delivered to the Washington football team in 1979 by legendary Husky c0ach Don James. Read about former UW football player Peter Tormey’s new book, “The Thursday Speeches: Lessons in Life, Leadership, and Football from Coach Don James” here or read an excerpt. Ask Tormey, the younger brother of longtime UW assistant coach Chris Tormey, a question about writing the book, Don James or Husky football in a live chat with Seattle Times readers Tuesday at noon.
Oct. 18, 1979
The Possible Dream
To emphasize the importance of positive thinking to his 1979 team, James wrote one entire Thursday speech about the song “The Impossible Dream” from the 1965 Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha” and the 1972 film of the same name. In this speech, before the No. 12-ranked Huskies hosted No. 17-ranked University of Pittsburgh, James reiterated that the UW players think positively and believe in each other. James’ speech is in italics, and the song’s lyrics are boldfaced.
The hit tune from the film “Man of La Mancha” in the early ’70s, was the song “The Impossible Dream.” It was a huge success, extremely well done. I personally thought this song was great, so apropos to life and football. The only thing I took exception to was the title, “The Impossible Dream.” I don’t like the word impossible. I want it to read “The Possible Dream.”
I believe successful people dream a lot. They like to get there, do things to get there. They dream of accomplishments, getting to the top of the mountain. Last night, every baseball player’s dream — the final game of the World Series.
Can you just imagine the great joy of the winners and the agony of the losers?
The Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, NBA Championship? First you dream about being there. Second, you then decide how to get there.
“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to make them come true.”
To pay the price, this is the key.
“To bear with unbearable sorrow.”
Maybe sorrow isn’t exactly the right word to describe the feeling after the ASU game, but it’s close enough. Whatever the word, for us it was unbearable. Webster’s defines sorrow as “distress caused by loss!” In football we live with this sorrow for seven days, one week! Then it can be erased on the field Saturday afternoon. Then we can regain respect. Then we can make Pittsburgh pay for our distress. We would like a couple of plays back, we can’t get them, but we have a whole bunch of plays to make on Saturday.
“To run where the brave dare not go.”
There are a lot of people who have guts who would still not attempt to go head-to-head with most of you — or attempt to tackle 230-pound McMillan, Pittsburgh’s fullback. Plus there are lots of detractors that would never attempt what you do. We call some the chameleon—they change colors quickly.
“To be better by far than you are.”
I touched on this last week. First five games, we played about as well as we had to. Now I’m not sure. We have to play better than we are, but we are not playing as well as we can. It’s time for our Final 48 Hours and pissed-off game face. I think you will agree that we are better than we have shown. People haven’t seen us at our best yet. Let’s just attempt to be as good as we are. The song’s finish lines:
“To try when your arms are too weary.”
You know what this means. Hell, you all get tired. Long drive in the fourth quarter.
“To reach the unreachable star!”
They’re just a little further removed, our two top goals — but they are reachable.
Are we willing to pay the price to make them come true?
I think you are!!
We committed six turnovers — three fumbles and three pass interceptions — and the Panthers converted four of them for 23 of their points to beat us 26-14. Husky freshman Anthony Allen returned a kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown in the first half, and Joe Steele scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 63-yard, third-quarter drive.
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