You will never see a more touching pregame speech than the one directly below. (Yes, the speech contains a touch of mild, well-meaning profanity, but it's well worth weathering for the emotional roller coaster)
By now, even if you've been stuck under a very large rock for the past month, you know that New York City was struck by one of the worst storms in modern history, with Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy, if you prefer) leaving a path of destruction and carnage that has left parts of the city's two most outlying areas -- Staten Island and the Rockaways section of Brooklyn and Queens -- completely devastated. Now, as people try to bring back some semblance of normalcy to an area still reeling from the natural disaster, every effort is being made to set up temporary schools and even resuscitate activities like high school football to bring back important creature comforts.
In the wake of the storm, New York's Public Schools Athletic League served up a first-round football playoff game fraught with emotional connections to Sandy, with Queens (N.Y.) Beach Channel High, a school in one of the most affected sections of the Rockaways, facing off against Staten Island (N.Y.) Port Richmond High. Of all the boroughs, it would be hard to argue that any received as much proportional damage than Staten Island.
The devastation that befell Beach Channel alone tells a truly compelling story. According to Gotham Schools, a New York City education blog, only 15 percent of Beach Channel's students showed up during their first official day back after the storm, with classes held at an emergency temporary location. The football team suddenly found itself without any equipment because the storm had washed it all away.
Even more strikingly, the team wouldn't have had anywhere to practice even if the equipment were still around because Beach Channel's football field had been transformed into an emergency helipad for medical and supply flights.
Despite those challenges, Beach Channel gathered a team together to compete in the playoffs. As first brought to Prep Rally's attention by Deadspin, before the Beach Channel Dolphins took to the field, Beach Channel football coach Victor Nazario gathered his squad around for a pregame pep talk, and delivered what may be one of the most touching, inspiring and moving speeches in the annals of all pregame speeches.
In the span of fewer than 3 1/2 minutes, Nazario provided a powerful coda to New York's resilience in the face of Sandy. In particular, two passages exemplify the attitude that New Yorkers have collectively shown to the storm, and why the nation has responded so resoundingly to that very public civic reaction.
"Sandy took a lot of [expletive] from us. A lot. It did not take our courage. It did not take our will. It did NOT take our courage, it did NOT take our will. Because your will is what got you here today.
"We handle our business and then we go home to deal with the dark and whatever else we're dealing with, because that's what we're dealing with. They're not doing that. They're not doing that. We're doing that. I'm willing to bet that it definitely has improved your character, and it definitely should make you hungry …"
What Nazario lacks in efficient delivery he more than makes up for in passion and heartfelt, genuine admiration for a group of teenagers collectively thrown into life's deep end by circumstances they had absolutely nothing to do with.
Unfortunately for Nazario and Channel Beach, a monumental upset was not in the cards, with Port Richmond running out 38-6 victors. Still, that was far less important than what was to come after the game, as the Channel Beach players testified to themselves in chilling but determined honesty.
"I wouldn't have been able to live with that feeling of 'what if?'" Channel Beach senior wide receiver Justin Zemser told Gotham Schools. "At least now I know we had a shot at it. Now we gotta go fix this town up."
You can see Nazario's speech in its entirety above -- please beware of a few sprinkled in expletives -- but a transcript of his comments also follows below.
"Needless to say, the last two weeks has really tested our character, our resilience. In my opinion, you guys passed with flying colors. The [expletive] you had to deal with is ridiculous. But we're here to play football. I'm proud of you guys. Everything that you've overcome, everything that you've endured, I couldn't be prouder. As far as I'm concerned, you guys are soldiers. You're warriors. You're heroes. God bless you.
"We didn't come here to lose this game, gentlemen. We didn't come here to lose this game. It might be David vs. Goliath, we got 25 bodies, they got 40. It don't matter. It don't matter. We worry about the 11 that take the field. If our 11 are better than theirs, we win the football game. Period. End of story. That's just the way it is.
"I just want to say that, again, if this is the last game that we play, I'm extremely proud of you guys. Everything again that you've accomplished and you've endured, it's like ridiculous that you guys even thought about playing this football game. So we're here, we're here to play football. Go out there and handle your business. On any given day, gentlemen, anybody can be beaten. Anybody can be beaten. I'm here to tell you, I've been in this situation. I had the number 15 seed going up against the number 2 seed three years ago, [Staten Island] Curtis at Curtis, and guess what? Curtis lost. Curtis lost. All right?
"Marcus said yesterday, Sandy took a lot of [expletive] from us. A lot. It did not take our courage. It did not take our will. It did NOT take our courage, it did NOT take our will. Because your will is what got you here today. So let's finish this job, gentlemen. Let's just go out there and go out in style. Like I told Foley, all I ask is that you go 110 percent and let the Lord and the football gods will take care of the rest of it. Got it?
"We did NOT come all the way over here to lose. You guys have been through way too [expletive] much. Way to [expletive] much. Again, I'm proud of you guys, I thank you for all your hard work, your commitment, your dedication with the coaching staff getting in your [expletive] all year long. You've kept growing, you've matured and you've had to put up with so much [expletive] it's ridiculous.
"Winning this football game should be easy for us! All the things we've been through for the last two weeks? Winning this football game should actually be easy. We handle our business and then we go home to deal with the dark and whatever else we're dealing with, because that's what we're dealing with. They're not doing that. They're not doing that. We're doing that. I'm willing to bet that it definitely has improved your character, and it definitely should make you hungry to win this football game.
"So again guys, I thank you, and I love this team to death, I really do. Let's go out there and handle our business. Let's say our prayers, get your helmets and make sure you're padded up."
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