Is there anything Rocky can’t inspire?

November 16, 2012 Erik Ernst Leave a Comment

Watch WPT Home Theater: Rocky at 10:50 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 on Wisconsin Public Television.

There are inspirational sports films. And, then there is Rocky.

I don’t know of anyone who can hear the opening strains of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” and not feel at least a little burst of excitement in their chest. Sure, it might not be enough to motivate you to jump into the boxing ring to take a beating from Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. But when a young Sylvester Stallone sat down in the 1970s to write the story of a scrappy underdog from the rough streets of Philadelphia, he tapped something that has continued to resonate with audiences around the globe for nearly 40 years. (And when I say, “around the globe,” it is no joke. Try walking down a street in another country wearing a shirt emblazoned with Rocky’s visage and you will hear shouts of “Rocky Balboa!” from taxi drivers, food cart cooks,  and shop owners. I’ve been there. It’s true. In fact the zip line guides in Montego Bay, Jamaica a few years ago loved this particular shirt at left.)

I’ve been a Rocky fan for a long time. My wife has been subjected to this obsession since we met in college. Despite making her sit and watch all (then) five films in my dorm room, she still agreed to marry me — knowing that life would be filled with nonstop choruses of “Eye of the Tiger” and endless random cries of “Adrian!” Not to mention the constant conversations about Rocky V and why it really shouldn’t exist in the canon of films, followed by the relief that the recent sixth film, Rocky Balboa, brought the series to an acceptable close and actually ignored the storyline “developments” from the much inferior fifth entry. Heck, I even own this oversize animated, talking Rocky statue. (Although she has never let me bring it home from my parent’s house for some reason…)

Rocky even inspired one of my life’s favorite lasting memories — a classic road trip in college that saw four kids from Wisconsin trekking out to Philadelphia over a long weekend in the dead of winter. The trip was supposed to be much better planned and much more grand. My buddy and I had plans for what would have perhaps become the ultimate nerd Spring Break our senior year of college. We would hop in a car travel south to Texarkana, Texas and make the run to Atlanta just as Smokey and the Bandit had done — albeit without the bootlegged Coors in our trunk. Then, we’d ride up the eastern seaboard to a visit to Philadelphia to wander the streets that Rocky had run upon in all of those great training montages.

But, the big trip got cancelled when my friend got notice that he was being deployed by the National Guard to go serve our country overseas. While most folks thoughts would turn to planning for being out of country for a number of months, he turned to me and said, “If we leave today, we could at least run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum before I have to go…” So, as any level-headed college kid would do, we gathered a couple of co-conspirators, packed up a car, painted images of the Liberty Bell on the windows and shoved off into one of the worst winter storms the East Coast saw in 2002. Many hours — and one very cold stay in a rundown mid-Ohio motel — later and we made it. Sure, we took a couple of hours to see the historic sights in Philly, but we were there for one reason. And that’s how the photo at the top of this post came to be — my chance to overlook the (much taller now) Philadephia skyline as I had seen Rocky do so many times on my television screen.

So, if you are in need of a touch of inspiration, well, you should watch the training montage from Rocky right now below — trust me, it will kick start your day like nothing else. Then, tune in to watch the full film tomorrow night on WPT. You might not run out and start pounding sides of beef in a meat locker, but I guarantee you’ll have a bit more pep in your step when you wake up Sunday morning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *