Round 14 of the original Rocky movie is one of the greatest scenes in popular cinematic history. Listening to the song from that scene, The Final Bell, is still inspirational because it brings to mind a character that will not be beaten.
Rocky was the highest grossing film of 1976. It was nominated for 10 Oscars and won three, including Best Picture against heavy competition in 1977 (Network, Taxi Driver and All the President’s Men, films that have proven their worth over time, were also contenders that year). But Rocky deserved to get it. Sylvester Stallone is one of only three people in history to be nominated for both Best Actor and Best Writing in the same year. The other two were Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles. More than 40 years later the emotional impact of Rocky is still there.
Rocky is great and this particular scene it great because we still feel it and we still believe it. We believe in the ferocity of Apollo’s punches. We believe that Rocky is defeated. He looks defeated. He should be defeated. He has been beaten to a bloody pulp by the world champion for 14 punishing rounds. “What is keeping him up? He can’t even get his gloves up to protect his face,” says the incredulous announcers. And Sylvester Stallone looks utterly fatigued. Rocky is beaten up, but he is not beaten.
When he knocks Rocky down in the middle of round 14 Apollo thinks he has won. His arms are lifted above his head in triumph. No one would blame Rocky for giving up. He should stay down. His coach is telling him to stay down, but he struggles to his feet. And when Rocky gets up Carl Weathers shows in a millisecond of great acting the feeling of despair in fighting a man that will not be beaten.
Rocky is swaying, but he signals that he is ready for more. Apollo shakes his head in disbelief. In the final seconds of round 14 Rocky gets in some solid punches. He hurts Apollo and comes back to win final round. Rocky lost 14 rounds, but he wins round 15. Apollo, the champion, is out on his feet. Just a few more seconds… In the end, Rocky winds up losing the overall fight, but he accomplishes his goal of going the distance with Creed. And we all know that if there had been one more round Rocky would have won.
I believe that our lives can be like that. We can experience defeat and come back. We can be down, but not out. Last year I had a Round 14. It was one of the most difficult years of my life. I experienced severe challenges personally, physically, financially, emotionally and professionally. I will share more about what I have learned through those trying times in future post. But suffice it to say that this year I’m back for more.
Here’s hoping this year is round 15.