I saw "Rocky IV" at one of the lowest points of my life. My roommate and I were fending off some personal demons of rather extraordinary magnitude. It was Thanksgiving day, 1985 and we had decided to avoid the messy family gathering to stay at home and wallow in our self-pity. That combined with a dinner of processed turkey breast and a number of other foil-wrapped goodies that my mother had prepared for us ahead of time gave us a perfect chance to stand on the cliff and stare down into the abyss.
Jingoistic as it was, it was hard not to get caught up in the struggle of Rocky Balboa avenging the death of his good friend and fellow warrior, Apollo Creed. My friend and I were completely absorbed in every punch given and received as Ivan Drago, the red communist machine bore down on poor, tormented Rocky. For ninety-one minutes, we were relieved of our torment. We were part of a crowd, cheering for the underdog, and it felt good. We hadn't felt that way for a long time.
Fast forward twenty-one years. I talked to my friend who is now happily ensconced in his east coast life. He told me how he and his son had gone to see "Rocky Balboa," and enjoyed it quite a bit. I thought about the thirty years that have passed since I first saw Sylvester Stallone run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I went to that one with my father. When we came out, I was ready to run twenty miles, eat raw eggs, and do a dozen one-arm push ups. That's where I learned about going the distance. I saw that movie at least six times in a theater, before video tape, and before I had HBO. Back in the present, I decided to take a chance - a chance that I might feel that old "Gonna Fly Now" magic.
The chance was "Rhinestone," and "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot," and alas, "Rocky V." Sylvester Stallone is sixty years old now. I told my wife I wanted to go, and bless her heart, she didn't even flinch - she said she'd go with me. I didn't need it to win best picture, I just wanted it to go the distance. I laughed a little, and I cried a little. I winced when the action in the ring went into slow motion. The Italian Stallion deserved to go out on a high note, and this was it. He wasn't an American icon, he was just a boxer who had one more fight in him, and he left on his own terms. It didn't make me feel young again, but I did feel. It felt good.