Award season means plenty of awkward moments and even some speech swagger

Awards season is here!

For most of us, that doesn’t mean anything more than perhaps hosting a fun Oscars watch party that features Little Smokies in the slow cooker and aggressively tweeting about those dresses. And while I do appreciate opulent fashion, I’m here for the oratory.

I’m fascinated by what folks say when suddenly presented with the opportunity to speak about anything to a whole lot of people. This month’s Golden Globes is just the latest showcase of the speech spectrum, which ranges from those looking pained to find the words to others who were ON POINT.

Some people just know how to microphone.

I think it’s safe to say that actor Michelle Williams is among the On Point crowd of award acceptance speakers. She delivered an incredible speech at last year’s Emmy Awards when she won for role as dancer-actress Gwen Verdon in the FX series “Fosse/Verdon.” At that time, she advocated eloquently for women to be treated fairly and paid equally. At the Golden Globes this month, when she won for the same role, she delivered again.

Among the highlights of her speech: “ … women 18 to 118, when it is time to vote please do so in your self-interest. It's what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them, but don't forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let's make it look more like us.”

While there are plenty of people who don’t agree with Williams, it’s hard to argue with the fact that this woman comes prepared with something to say as well as an absolutely perfect delivery. She doesn’t ramble and she doesn’t lose her place. She just nails it.

It’s true that “traditional” awards shows -- for roles on camera and behind it -- are where we typically see some great and not-so-great speeches. But sports -- and its ceremonies to honor everyone from MVPs to champions to community advocates -- also gives us opportunities to hear about the journeys of incredible athletes. A few of my favorites:

1. It’s difficult to top The Swagger of Megan Rapinoe last summer as she walked to the podium to address the crowd in New York City that came out to celebrate the U.S. Women's National Soccer team after it won the World Cup. She told them: “We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We gotta listen more and talk less. We gotta know that this is everyone’s responsibility. … Be bigger than you ever have before.”

2. There’s nothing like a little vulnerability from a rockstar athlete. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks gave us exactly that in the speech he delivered when he was named the MVP of the league in June 2019. As he spoke through tears, his voice breaking, he thanked his brothers and his mother. He said, “If you have a good parent, your parent sees the future for you. And she always saw the future in us, she always believed in us.”

3. Probably among the most well known award speeches came in 1993 when Jim Valvano accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first ESPYS. Jimmy V, who was a college basketball player, coach and broadcaster, gave the address as he battled cancer. At the end of his passionate speech, he talked about cancer. He said it “can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

That’s how you microphone.


Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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