Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby taught us two things. Number one: America is about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed. Number two: being a champion takes determination, grit, hard work and a lot of Mountain Dew. Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) was a successful race car driver with a smokin’ hot wife, a pair of kids, a few endorsement deals, and plenty of fans before he crashed and burned — the burned part was imaginary on his part — on the track. He lost everything: his family, his best friend, and his ability to tear up some rubber on the big stage, but Ricky Bobby learned the true meaning of excellence when he mounted the quintessential American comeback, one that involved deadbeat dads, live cougars, and Frenchmen.
There’s a lot we can learn from the tale of Ricky Bobby but perhaps the most important thing is how to always act like a winner. Here are nine lines for when you need to motivate yourself to literally piss excellence.
“You need to grab a hold of that line between speed and chaos, and you need to wrestle it to the ground like a demon cobra. And then, when the fear rises up in your belly, you use it. And you know that fear is powerful, because it has been there for billions of years. And it is good.” – Susan
Before Amy Adams made it to the Oscars she was playing second-tier love interest parts like her role as Susan, Ricky Bobby’s mousy assistant, and eventual lover.
Usually, Susan was content to stay on the sidelines but when Ricky Bobby was in need of a down and dirty pep talk, she was there to deliver. Not only did Susan’s speech light a fire under Ricky’s ass, it also led to them getting it on in the middle of a dingy dive bar. More than that, her words struck a chord with Ricky and with viewers.
Fear, like a demon cobra, is a powerful thing. It’s as old as time itself. When you feel fear, don’t give into it, use it to fuel you to get into that matchbox car and drive 200 miles per hour in circles for hours at a time.
“If you ain’t first, you’re last!” – Reese/Ricky
Ricky Bobby’s trademarked motto came courtesy of his deadbeat dad Reese (Gary Cole) right before he split. Still, they were words he lived his life by. Later he’d find out that his dad imparted that nugget of wisdom while completely high, but drug induced or not, the slogan makes since. No one cares how hard you tried. Most Improved is an award they give to babies who can’t make it in high school sports. If you’re not at the top, what the hell are you even doing?
“You’ve gotta learn to drive with the fear.” – Reese
Fear is a recurring theme in race car driving. Being able to conquer that fear is something Ricky Bobby struggled with after his accident and imaginary inferno incident. To help him get back behind the wheel, his dad re-introduced him to the concept by putting a live cougar in his car and telling him to drive with it. Extreme? Probably. (Although one could argue that any dad who goes to the trouble of trapping a wildcat in his motel bathroom for a week and feeding it leftover pizza deserves Father of the Year.) Still, the lesson sticks. If you can’t learn to live with your fear, you’re not going to amount to much.
“Remember: The field mouse is fast, but the owl sees at night.” – Chip
Grandpa Chip (Ted Manson) was creepy as hell. Nevertheless, the old bag possessed some good insight. Ricky Bobby’s life was all about speed, but Chip knew that seeing the bigger picture is even more important than going fast.
Realistically, you’ll never be able to see as keenly as an owl — they have incredible night vision, binocular focus, and can rotate their heads 270 f*cking degrees — but better to have that as your spirit animal than a small rodent with a scaly tail and a high breeding rate.
“You got hair on your peaches or what?” – Reese
When life gives you lemons, what do you do? Make lemonade – or trash em, lemons are disgusting. When life finds you behind the wheel of a car with a kilo of cocaine strapped under the hood and the police on your tail, what do you do? You find out how much hair is on your peaches. Having the cajones to remain cool under pressure is a valuable asset in life. Remember that the next time your steel is tested.
“God needs the Devil. The Beatles needed The Rolling Stones. Diane Sawyer needs Katie Couric.” – Jean
One thing every champion needs is an enemy, frenemy, or rival to challenge them to be better. A solid fan base is nice but if you surround yourself with “yes” men and people who try to convince you your sh*t smells like flowers, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Having someone as good as you to compete with pushes you to try harder, reach further, do more.
Ricky Bobby had Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), that smelly Frenchman who dreamed of retiring to Stockholm with his husband and starting a currency for dogs and cats. Your goal in life should be to find your own Devil, your own Katie Couric.
“I’m too drunk to taste this chicken.” – Ricky (and maybe Colonel Sanders)
Jean Girard liked his smack talk on the philosophical side. When he shared a quote from William Blake about how the cut worm forgives the plow, Ricky Bobby responds with his own clap back from the great Colonel Sanders. If you’re drunk enough, even bad chicken can taste good. Take that and apply it to your life as you will.