Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rising Up...Back On My Feet...Took My Time...Took My Chances

I know I promised that this would be a marathon week of college football, but I’ve had a change of heart. Hey, it’s my blog, so I can do that, right? Well, I figure it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, so I’m doing it. What has possessed this departure from such a solid plan, you ask? I’ve got two words for you…Rocky Balboa. That’s right, yesterday I blew out of the office early and headed with the only other man as excited about this movie as me, Colby “MF”, to a late afternoon showing of the sixth and final installment of the greatest movie franchise of all time. Okay, that might be an overstatement, but I love Rocky, Colby loves Rocky, and yesterday we were finally able to properly say goodbye to Rocky and bring closure to a long and fulfilling relationship with the Italian Stallion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to share two things. First, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I finally mustered the courage to sit down and watch Rocky V. Yes, it took me sixteen years to do it, but I finally endured the fall of Rocky and the betrayal of Tommy Gunn. It wasn’t fun, but I felt like it had to be done. I didn’t see any other way I could properly appreciate the final installment unless I forced myself to confront the tragedy I knew existed in Rocky V. Why did it take me 16 years to watch it? Well, because Rocky was and is a hero of mine. He may be a fictional character, but he has brought me more entertainment and inspiration than any other character or sports figure in my lifetime save Michael Jordan or Lance Armstrong. Therefore, the thought of sitting through two hours of him walking around punch drunk, losing his fortune, alienating his son, and getting used by Tommy Morrison for God’s sake, was just more than I could bare. But, knowing that VI presented a chance at salvation for Rocky, I felt I needed to confront V in order to fully appreciate the redemption and salvation in VI. I was right.

The second thing I have to share is that I have already ready Bill Simmons’ review of VI, and I think he couldn’t be more wrong about this movie. Of course, this seems to be par for the course for Simmons over the past year as he becomes increasingly self satisfied and arrogant. But, that’s another story for a different day, but for now, let’s just talk about why he’s wrong about “Rocky Balboa”.

Simmons claims that VI is a cry for help by Stallone. He seems to be inferring that the character Stallone is playing is somehow symbolic of how he feels about his own life. I don’t see that at all. Instead, I see this movie as a gift to all of us that have spent 16 years avoiding Rocky V. VI is essentially a living eulogy to the Stallion, which is made very powerful by the use of obscure old characters like Spider Rico and Little Marie. The use of these characters is a tremendous tribute to Rocky’s past and really helps bring the story full circle. And that, my friends, is what this movie is all about…bringing Rocky’s story full circle and giving us some piece of mind. I’m not going to give away the ending, but I will say that it couldn’t have been more perfect. Honestly, I couldn’t have scripted it better myself…simply inspiring and satisfying. I will say this: If you are like me and spent 16 years avoiding the reality of Rocky V, or you are like Bill Simmons and spent 16 years mocking and ridiculing Rocky V, you simply can’t be unhappy with VI. We hated V (or just the idea of V) because it left us feeling pity for Rocky. Well, after VI, we no longer feel pity for Rocky…we feel pride. The Stallion finally gets to walk away on his own terms with his head held high, and he manages to give us at least three solid chill/non-gay man love scenes that leave their mark. For all these reasons, I LOVED “Rocky Balboa”, and I can finally go to bed knowing that Rocky is okay. And, at the end of the day, could I have asked for a better Christmas gift? I think not!