Tuesday, January 31, 2006

We Love Ya’, Rock

“Yeah, I love you’s too” bellows Rocky into the ring announcer’s microphone, half to the fan who had called out to him, and half to the city of Philadelphia, who had rallied behind Rocky as he prepared for the rematch with Apollo Creed just as the city has rallied behind Stallone after Rocky to make the sequel, Rocky II.

Rocky became Philadelphia’s favorite son because he represented so much of what Philadelphians value. He was all about endurance, courage, and a never say die attitude that was symbolized in Mickey’s immortal words, “I ain’t heard no bell yet.” It brings back memories of those Philadelphia heroes: Bill Bergey wiping the blood from his nose on a Cowboy’s uniform after being pummeled all day, Bobby Clarke with two front teeth missing moving through two Bruins skaters giving him the Malachi crunch to score the goal that would win game 6, Mo Cheeks driving the lane and getting close lined by Kareem Abdul Jabbar but still hitting the shot to cap off the comeback in game 4.

And Rocky represents the fighters from Philadelphia, the people who just would never say day: Joe Frazier, Philly’s favorite son, Michael Jack Schmidt who may be tough to be around but wanted to win more than any Philadelphian and let nothing stand in his way, Dave Schultz, who turned the expansion Philadelphia Flyers into the Broad Street Bullies. These are the traits that Philadelphians have come to respect and to worship. And Rocky Balboa represented all these values.

Sure, Rocky may have become over commercial in Rocky IV, fighting the Russian. But he was back in Rocky V, back on the streets of Philadelphia, back where he had started from getting screwed over by the man but not letting it get him down, fighting for his respect and his pride. How many people identified with the Rock when Tommy Gun and the Don King wannabe came to call out Balboa? How many other Philadelphians have banged their heads against walls so many times, trying to get a fair shake, only to have the people who are screwing you come back to tell you to stop trying. But Philadelphians don’t give up, that’s a huge part of our pride.

I’m continually amazed that many of the people I’ve watched Rocky with, people not from Philly, don’t realize that he lost the fight in the first movie. But that is a huge part of the appeal. He didn’t win the fight, but he never went down, he never gave up. And I loved him for it, and so did most of my Philly friends. It’s no accident that a statue of Rocky, a statue of a fictional movie character, stood outside the Philadelphia spectrum, where the Flyers and Sixers played, for so many years. It stood for the values we respect in our athletes, in our heroes, and in our citizens.

Stallone is at it again, filming Rocky VI in Philadelphia now, at the age of 60. Evidently, he is asked to do a seniors fight, but somehow I suspect the fight is a small part of this film. And while some people will say it’s ridiculous for Rocky to come back to the screen, and ask how many times we’ll see a sequel for this movie, I won’t be one of those people. I will watch the film, and I will cheer for the rock, because he still ain’t heard that bell.

Posted by Scottage at 12:22 PM / | |