As you may or may not already know, I grew up in a little town just outside the city of Philadelphia. I was in junior high when "Rocky" was being film just about 10 or so miles from where I lived. I remember the film's release and the talk that followed about what a masterpiece the picture truly was. But at that time I was a 8th grader who had absolutely no interest whatsoever in Rocky, the sport of boxing or anything else remotely tied to the picture. It was so far removed from where I was in my life and all those things I held important as a 13 year old girl, I never ever saw the picture until...oh about about 3 years ago.
It was right after Christmas and as I started taking down the tree I flipped on the TV just catching the end of some program I was interested in. So after the show ended, instead of changing the channel as I normally would do, I just let it run. All I wanted was a little background noise while taking down the decorations and returning the living room to its normal state of existence. In letting the TV run I stumbled upon something I related to so deeply that by the time it was over I was nothing less than riveted to the television screen. It was Rocky, the original one released all those years ago that I couldn't be bothered with.
I think my connection with Rocky started when I ran my first long distance race. It was in May of 2008 and I ran the Philadelphia Distance run with my best friend Donna. She had talked me into running the 10 miler which is supposedly almost all downhill. So we trained individually for the race. I went in well prepared but Donna just couldn't find enough time in her busy schedule to train more than a 4 or 5 mile run. So during the race at about mile 5 Donna told me to just go on and that she will catch up with me at the finish line and I took off. At about mile 8 the speakers along the race path started blaring the theme to Rocky. I remember thinking to myself that I was just about to accomplish something I never in my wildest of dreams thought I would ever do...run 10 miles. I remember becoming extremely emotional as I listened to the lyrics of the music to point of almost tears. Three years later after Donna and I finished the New York City marathon we met up with family and friends at a little pub in Manhattan for a celebratory drink. As we walked in with our Mylar ponchos over our shoulders and carrying our race bags the bar put on the song "Eye of the Tiger" in our honor and everyone in the place began to cheer for these two worn out and beat up marathoners. I again was almost in tears at the thought of our accomplishment.
(Donna and myself on 1st Ave during the NYC marathon 2011)
So when Rocky came on my TV I began to feel an emotional up-welling. I sat for over two hours watching Rocky. After the movie was over the next movie to be aired was Rocky II and I sat for another 2 hours glued to the TV. I became memorized by Rocky Balboa and his never give up attitude. As Roger Ebert wrote in his 1976 review of the film...
What makes the movie extraordinary is that it doesn't try to surprise us with an original plot, with twists and complications; it wants to involve us on an elemental, a sometimes savage, level. It's about heroism and realizing your potential, about taking your best shot and sticking by your girl. It sounds not only clichéd but corny -- and yet it's not, not a bit, because it really does work on those levels. It involves us emotionally, it makes us commit ourselves: We find, maybe to our surprise after remaining detached during so many movies, that this time we care.
I think that is what happened with me...it made me realize my physical potential. I've heard it said that just getting to the starting line of a race is half the battle, and having done that I realized how true that sentiment really is. And in each Rocky story line that entire concept is reinforced for me.
So now I am a total Rocky Junkie. It can be on anytime of the day or night and I just can't ever seem to bring myself to turn it off. It would feel almost sacrilegious to me to not watch Rocky's journey. To date I have seen all the Rocky pictures with the exception of the latest release Creed, of witch Sylvester Stallone is up for best supporting actor. Here is Stallone's interview with Robin Roberts as he discusses how Rocky changed his life and about his part in Creed.
"To all the Rockys in the world, I love you." - Sylvester Stallone 1977
(Donna after the 2012 Philadelphia marathon posing with Rocky)
I will be on my sofa tonight waiting to see if the academy's nomination of Creed's Sylvester Stallone for best supporting actor gets the nod and an Oscar award!