Monday, March 14, 2016

Rocky to Creed: Of Boxing, Cold Wars and Classified Fish Tales

After watching the movie Creed with my son Cory, he wanted to see the others in the Rocky series. We started with the 1976 original, of course. It awakened memories I assumed had long ago been pounded to oblivion along with the brain cells in which they resided.

I was 16 and boxing for a local Boy's Club. I had outgrown my quest to be Evel Knievel and jumping over barrels on my Stingray bicycle and had decided, instead, to be Rocky Balboa. (It was a short-lived dream put to an end by a massive brute from the Bronx who, so I had heard, began life fighting his way out of his mom's womb wearing illegally modified Everlast gloves.)  With no invitation to take on Mohammed Ali, I settled instead on fights against fellow teens from other Boy's Clubs.  At one of our home fights, the opposing team failed to show up. Our trainer quickly matched us up by weight, created a hasty program, and handed it to the referee. When my fight came around, he announced my name, in my "corner" of course, and  . . . "in the other corner" . . . Bob Stalling. Yes, my older (and tougher) brother. My mom wasn't there to watch, but said she didn't need to -- she had watched us fight almost every day for years. Bob was my Apollo Creed; I was proud to have survived the entire fight of four two-minute rounds still standing.

Rocky has held up well. It's still a fun, decent movie. Rocky II is okay. The rest gets a bit ridiculous -- kind of like Rambo going from being somewhat believable in the original to him taking out a helicopter with a rock in part II . . . or was it part VI? . . . or was it Rambo XXXII?  . . . I can't recall. As I mentioned, I killed a few brain cells back in the day.

By the time Rocky IV came out in 1985 -- in which the ruthless, robotic Ivan Drago of the USSR kills Apollo Creed and Rocky seeks revenge -- we were in the height of the Cold War against the Evil Empire and supposed to hate Russians. I was 25, a Sergeant in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit, and beginning to "reason why" and question the whole "do or die" part.

I had gotten into a bit of trouble for speaking to an old Russian tourist while on a 72-hour Christmas leave in Palma, on the Island of Mallorca, in Spain. He claimed to be a "Ryback," a fisherman, who loved to catch "Sudack" -- very similar to our walleye. So we swapped fishing stories (as best we could anyway, considering the language barrier and all). I suspected he was lying -- not because he was Russian, but because he was a fisherman. Well, that and we were kind of drunk. But the government of the United States of America did not need to worry about me revealing any classified information. Not only was I a highly-trained and loyal Marine, but my father had long before instilled in me the critical importance of maintaining the utmost secrecy about all things fishing.

Anyway, what I meant to say is this: Creed is a surprisingly good movie.  Michael B. Jordan is a great actor -- not to mention pretty nice to look at. I am now 55 and living in Montana, where I do a lot of fishing.

What I use and where I go shall remain classified, Top Secret, even if you get me drunk -- which you're always welcome to do, whether you're American, Russian or otherwise.