By Randy De La O
It's funny How things work out in life. Exactly forty years ago this month Rocky was in full production, in both Los Angeles and in Philadelphia. No one, including and especially Sylvester Stallone, had any inkling they were creating an American myth, a story for the ages, a character that would come to embody all the elements of the underdog that just refused to quit. Sylvester Stallone, as the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa captured our hearts with his portrayal of a simple and honest man, literally fighting for his spot in the world. When we see a great fight on television where some fighter lays it all on the line, maybe losing early and coming back to score a knockout, someone will almost invariably say, “It was like a Rocky movie!” Rocky and his huge heart have become part of our American lexicon.
Maybe it was that simple naivete of both Stallone and Rocky Balboa that grabbed us. In many ways, metaphorically, the story of Rocky Balboa, is the story of Sylvester Stallone, albeit, in a different arena. Stallone, like Balboa, like all of us, has had his ups and downs, wins and losses, and at times facing criticism, some deserved, some not, but always finding a way to win, and always, against the odds.
We have followed the saga of Rocky from his first fight with Apollo Creed and the ensuing rematch, the loss to Clubber Lang and his struggle to win back the title, we went with him to Russia, during the cold war, when he fought and beat the unbeatable opponent Drago, and as a damaged ex fighter training the unworthy Tommy Gunn, and his “comeback “fight against Mason “The Line” Dixon and finally coming full circle in Creed, as an aging fighter, or more to the point, an aging man, with all the pains and aches and frailties that inevitably come with age, even to an icon like Rocky Balboa.
We rooted for Rocky when he wooed the love of his life, Adrian and we grieved with him when he lost his beloved trainer and manager Mickey Goldmill. To be sure, some of the Rocky movies were, as one friend put it to me, “dogs”, but the character, Rocky Balboa, despite going astray at times always came back to who he was, a man and fighter with an indomitable spirit. That same spirit we all want to believe lives inside of us all, waiting for the opportunity to present itself!
Then again, maybe it's just me. Maybe I am just making too much of all of it. It does not matter. I have enjoyed every minute of the Rocky saga. Maybe you just have to know what it feels like to stand in the ring and see your opponent in the opposite corner looking a at you. Maybe you have to know what it's like to lay it all on the line, win, lose or draw. Maybe you just have to know what it's like to be an underdog. I don't know. Maybe you don't have to know any of these things just to appreciate the story of a humbled man that wins it all, and loses it it all.
Rocky won the Oscar for best picture in 1977 (Rocky premiered in 1976) and forty years later despite the odds and the years, Sylvester Stallone wins the Golden Globe for his portrayal of the indomitable Rocky Balboa. Congratulations Sylvester Stallone and thank you for all of it!