It's hard to believe that the Rocky saga turns 39 in November of this year. It was in 1976 that a street-tough collector for the mob and part time club fighter named Rocky Balboa took the world by storm, and gave a prototype for every underdog trying to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
That first Rocky movie won the Academy Award for best film in 1976, so it's not a reach (nor an insult) to say that the Rocky saga, right now officially six movies long, peaked with that first movie. Since then, the Rocky brand has endured, but if the movie series were a metro rail train, then in 1976 it was a full car. Gradually, though, people have been jumping off after each film as if the train were stopping and asking them to "exit to the right." Rocky II saw Balboa win the title, which we all needed to see. Rocky III saw him go from blue collar hero to Balboa, LLC, a corporate brand, figuratively.
From there, the ridiculousness really began to set in.
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In Rocky IV, Rocky managed to somehow singlehandedly end the Cold War by knocking out a gigantic Russian on the Soviet's home turf, avenging his best friend Apollo Creed's death in the process. In Rocky V, Rocky was forbidden from fighting because of CTE (about 15 years before the world learned what CTE really is, thanks to the NFL) AND lost all his money when his lunkhead brother in law signed power of attorney over to Rocky's crooked accountant. (Yes, Rocky V was easily the most depressing of the series)
It was at that stop, Rocky V, where the Balboa train passengers all poured off. If the Rocky saga were the Houston Metrorail, Rocky V was Main Street Square, with Rocky's wussy sixth grade son magically turning into some sort of wrecking machine and knocking out a schoolyard bully (played by Entourage's Kevin Connelly before puberty) being the eye rolling nadir of the genre. Indeed, the Balboa train was pretty empty after V.
But guess who has two thumbs and stayed on board, even after V? THIS GUY. The world hated Rocky V, but for all of its trainwreckish qualities, I quietly loved it. I've always felt that Rocky Balboa was like pizza — even bad Balboa is still pretty awesome. (For the love of God, the man saved the free world from communist Russia! How quickly people forgot!)
So when Sylvester Stallone decided to get back into the Rocky-making business in 2006 with the sixth stop on the Rocky train, the transparently titled Rocky Balboa, guess who had never gotten off the train? Me. That's who! I was fine with the sixth entry, even if suspending disbelief for a decrepit, 60-something Rocky standing toe to toe with champion Mason "The Line" Dixon was like believing David Arquette was "for real" when he won the WCW Title in 2000.
Much like Rocky himself after fifteen rounds with Apollo Creed, I was still standing after six Rocky movies, maybe the only one standing. Bloody, battered, bewildered, but still standing.
So forgive me if I can barely contain my excitement for Creed, the seventh installment in the Rocky series, and the first one in which we presumably see Rocky Balboa finally not fight at all — not in a ring, not on a street, not with a hanging side of beef in a meat locker. Because in this movie, we get a second generation from the first wave of Rocky movies that is actually a believable contender. We get the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed, played by Friday Night Lights star Michael B. Jordan.
Highlights frome the next chapter of greatness:
I'm not gonna lie, I got chills when Creed revealed himself to Balboa that he is indeed Apollo's son. That was bad ass, bad ass enough to make me forget that when this movie is released Sylvester Stallone will be older than Burgess Meredith (who played the role of "Mickey") was in the first Rocky movie.
How does that taste, children of the 70's?
It doesn't matter. Nothing can spoil this news for me. The Balboa Express has been cranked up one more time, there's only a few of us still sitting on the train. Most everyone else got off a long time ago. But you know what they say — it ain't about how hard you hit….it's about how hard you get hit, and keep moving forward. (Please slur that last sentence as if you're punch drunk, makes it more authentic.)
On November 25, I will be moving forward …. in line at the theater, when this movie is released. Book it.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.