In case you didn't know, 2006 marks the 30th anniversary of the greatest movie ever made. I plan on celebrating this milestone by fully immersing myself once again in the great Rocky story by watching every sequel, except of course the horrid fifth installment-- which from this moment forth with never be mentioned again, until that great and glorious day on December 22 when Rocky Balboa is released.
I've long shown a fondness for the underdog stories. It's inevitable growing up in a small town that you will latch on to those narratives that legitimize your place on the margins of society. Those born with privilege (be it financial or an abnormally healthy family structure) can afford to theorize their inner struggles through academia, cope with them through therapy, or ignore them altogether by gathering as many props around them as possible to create an alternate story. I am not slighting these people for being in the situation they have found themselves in. I do not envy them, but I do not shame them either.
The underdog, however, is forced to face his or her demons with nothing more than some hidden inner resolve and a little help from his or her friends. The great thing about the Rocky stories isn't that an underdog defeats Creed, Lang, or Drago, but that this guy from the slums stands toe to toe with himself and, with the support of other assorted misfits, ends up still standing in the end.
In fact, this "still standing" theme is at the heart of the original Rocky. Most people forget that Rocky didn't win the World Title until the second movie. The first one was all about the Italian Stallion's resolve to go all 15 rounds with Apollo Creed. Just before the fight with Creed, Rocky confesses to Adrian that there is no way he can win. She asks him what he'll do (implying what he will do with this realization,) and he makes this statement which brings me to tears every time I see it...
"Ah come on, Adrian, it's true. I was nobody. But that don't matter either, you know? 'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."
How beautiful is that?
In the Ragamuffin Gospel Brennan Manning speaks of the Victorious Limp,which is the idea that the victorious life found by following Christ looks less like the Power Team ripping phonebooks in half and bending steel bars and more like Rocky Balboa, battered and bleeding, struggling just to stand up at the end of the 15th round. Defeated, but still standing.
I guess this is all any of us can hope for. Only a few can be winners. I'll be content with just standing at the end.
In the meantime, I'll be praying to Burgess Meredith, the patron saint of the Rocky Franchise, that Rocky Balboa is worth the wait.