Why I Love Rocky Balboa
I swore off of the character and the franchise after the debacle that was Rocky 5. In fact, I have worked hard at removing “Tommy Gunn” and Rocky sweeping the leg in the middle of a Philly street from my memory. I was quite content to have the enduring image of maybe the best known American film icon, Rocky Balboa, be the Italian Stallion wrapped in the American flag in the middle of a Russian boxing ring after beating the unbeatable Siberian Express, Ivan Drago. I felt personally betrayed when the fifth movie ruined everything about the franchise for me, so you can understand why I was skeptical when I heard that Rocky was climbing back into the ring one more time. I fought it and I fought it because I was afraid that once again my feelings would be trampled under the weight of a truly bad movie, but finally the siren call of Sylvester Stallone was too much for me, and I went to see “Rocky Balboa.”
Loved it. Not just liked, friends, but loved it. I think the reason I loved it is because this Rocky, like the very first one in 1976, was alot more about the man than about the fight.
So excuse me for my overblown passion for what is, I realize, a FICTIONAL character, and allow me to tell you why I am so passionate about this series of movies. If you remember the original Rocky, incidentally the Academy Award winning best picture of 1976, then you will know what I’m talking about. If you think Rocky is about a boxing match, you are sorely mistaken. In the movie, you find that it’s a story about a guy’s journey that culminates in a boxing match that is the perfect metaphor for his life. That’s why Rocky is great - it’s because the movie - which Stallone wrote in 3 afternoons - is the story of a story. If you remember, after a gruelling match with Apollo Creed, Rocky is bloodied and beaten in the ring and the ring announcer is getting ready to announce the winner. But the music and the mayhem prevent you from really hearing who it is. You can tell Apollo won because of his facial reaction, but apparently to the filmmakers, the result of the fight was almost irrelevant. The important thing was that Rocky fought; not that he won necessarily, but that like his life, he fought. He perservered. He kept coming. And that is the same thing you get in Rocky 6.
I love that because I am beginning to sense that God wants us to live life with both eyes on the journey itself rather than always asking about the destination. The audience of Rocky never complained because that result at the end of the film was too quiet. They never complained that Rocky didn’t actually knock out Apollo. Why not? After all, isn’t that the destination toward which all of the movie was building? The answer to why there were no complaints is because the journey IS the destination; it is not just the road you travel to get somewhere else. It is the destination in itself.
The metaphor of a journey is a good one; after all, is not our relationship with Christ described as a “walk” throughout the Bible? And I wonder how many times as Enoch was walking with God as described in Genesis, did he say, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I haven’t gotten married… are we there yet? My career isn’t what I want it to be… are we there yet? My family is sick… are we there yet? I can’t stop sinning… are we there yet?” My strong assumption is that he didn’t ask because he had both eyes on the journey.
I want to live more that way instead of focusing on what has or hasn’t happened according to my expectations. I want to live and walk in the moment. Like Enoch. Like the Italian Stallion.
About the Author
Michael lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Jana, and kids, Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He grew up in Texas and earned a Master of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He has written The Tough Sayings of Jesus Volumes I & II, travels throughout the year speaking to students and young adults, and blogs daily at michaelkelleyministries.com.