I was very much moved by the videotape of Brian’s Song, and found myself choking back the tears. The film spoke volumes about male bonding, interracial relationships, courage in the face of injury and disease, and sportsmanship. I felt that the characters in the movie demonstrated a myriad of both emotions and communication techniques relevant to our studies in class. For the purposes of this assignment, however, I will focus only on those that I found to be the most obvious; namely, Brian Piccolo’s mastery of emotional manipulation (whether he was aware of it or not) and Gale Sayers’ gradual acquisition of good communication skills. Brian Piccolo was indeed a master of using emotion as a means of cognitive motivation. We are clearly shown throughout the movie how his wonderful sense of humor and admirable ability to laugh at himself lifted other people’s spirits and actually began to rub off on them. Talk about positive emotional contagion – wow! This guy wouldn’t let anything get him down, and his optimism generally tended to bring out the best in those around him, making him a terrific friend and teammate.
Even on his deathbed, Brian attempted to motivate himself toward recovery by jokingly suggesting that he still needed to get Gale back for putting the mashed potatoes in his seat when he sang his alma mater song. Just as importantly, Piccolo wouldn’t allow anything to get his friend Gale Sayers down, either. When Sayers suffered that terrible knee injury, he seemed to be angry with both himself and the world. Instead of facing the situation with courage and hope, he was ready to give up, and took out his anger on his wife (an example of his lack of good communication skills). It was Piccolo’s brilliant use of Sayers’ pride and anger as facilitative emotions that enabled Gale to make a comeback. When Piccolo challenged Sayers by saying that he wanted to prove himself a better player than Gale even at 100 percent, it was just the motivation that Sayers needed in order to begin his recuperation. Piccolo also helped Sayers, in a more indirect way, to communicate better in general.
At the beginning of the movie, Sayers doesn’t speak much, and is certainly incapable of any public speaking. As his relationship with Piccolo continues and the events begin to unfold, however, we see a transformed Gale Sayers emerging, one who isn’t afraid to speak openly and honestly about his thoughts and feelings, particularly those for the man whom he has come to love, Brian Piccolo. Piccolo was indeed an extraordinary man, but were it not for his impact on Sayers and his ability to communicate, we might never know it, for then Sayers may have never written the book I Am Third, from which the movie was made. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? In closing, I found Brian’s Song to be an exceptional movie filled with emotional and communicational content. These two great men were able to overcome both racial and cultural barriers, as well as personal tragedies, to form a friendship that strengthened and edified both themselves and others.
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