The pep talk: communication or superstition?

A baseball manager eschewed a pep talk in favor of what he called a "fact talk." And it worked!

The pep talk: communication, or superstition? Once I urged sports coaches who feel obligated to give the boys or girls a rousing pep talk before every game to “skip just one for the Gipper.” Longtime Montreal Expos general manager Jim Fanning, who died earlier this month, apparently felt the same way.

Late in 1981 with the team struggling, Fanning fired the team’s manager and took on the job himself. “When I took over, I didn’t give the team a pep talk because I didn’t know how,” Fanning said. “I gave them a fact talk. I told them they had 27 days to win it.” (And they did, reaching the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history.)

Seriously, scribes: Is there any rational rhetorical reason for the pregame pep talk, or is it pure rhetoric-as-ritual? —DM

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