I promised my son, Grant, I would write, this article, for him. It is a partial story, of his father's life, thus far.
I thought maybe, others, may benefit, from reading it, as well.
As a teenage boy, I loved going to watch Rocky movies at the local theatre. The very first year Rocky came to the big screen, I went to see it 36 times, in a row ! There was nothing else I would rather do, than watch Rocky fight, no matter how many times I'd seen the movie before. At the conclusion of each showing, I would always leave the theatre with tear filled eyes, inspired, to become a great, champion, like Rocky, someday.
The following summer, Rocky II came to the theatres. I was so excited ! I went to see that movie 45 times in a row ! I tell you the truth. I Never missed a day, during my summer, school vacation. Becoming a great, champion, just like Rocky, was all I dreamed about. It meant everything to me.
Rumor caught on, at school, that I was a big Rocky fan. All the kids would see me jogging around the school campus, doing push-ups, and sit ups, during class break. They would see me shadow boxing, throwing punches in the air, as if I were fighting somebody. They began to chant," Rocky! Rocky! as I jogged past them. The nickname stuck. I became Rocky.
I dreamed of becoming the greatest fighter that ever lived. Even greater than Mohammed Ali, who at the time, proclaimed, himself, to be "The Greatest," of all time.
In pursuit of my dream, I trained hard, every day. I studied the biographies, and the statistics of every great fighter that had lived during the past century. What were their secrets of success ? I had to know. What did they do that other fighters didn't do ? What was it about them that made them great ? What makes a man, a champion ? I was determined to find out.
I would learn the secrets of the greatest fighters, who ever lived. I would become one.
Surprisingly, my dream, of becoming a great boxer, didn't last long. Only four years later, at the age of 19, I woke up, one day, and realized that all my desire to fight, other men, was gone. Almost, instantaneously, I had a change of heart. I didn't want to spend my life beating other people down, anymore. Instead, I wanted to spend the rest of my life, lifting them up.
The night before my "transformation" of heart, I had watched, a televised, championship, boxing event, where a young fighter was beaten, to death, by the reigning champion. As the young man's body, laid, convulsing, on the bloody, boxing ring floor, I watched the champion parade himself around the ring, hands held high, above his head, in victory. He was shouting his own praise, making animal like sounds, pounding his fist upon his chest. He had no concern for the condition of his fellow man. All that mattered to him, was that he had won the fight.
I was appalled, at the champions lack of concern for his, dying, opponent. I thought to myself, "What I am seeing is not, " greatness." Beating the life out of another person, in, any kind of way, is not a good thing. It was then, I realized, I didn't want to be that kind of a fighter, anymore. Just like that, my heart changed.
In high school, my nickname, was Rocky. My girl friend was nicknamed, Roll. We were known as Rocky and Roll! Rock -n- Roll was the popular music, at the time. Immediately, after graduating from high school, we were married. A year later we had our first child. Wasn't much longer, we were a family of five.
I, Rocky loved Roll. I had every great intention when I pledged my heart to her, forever, on our wedding day. All I wanted, was to love her, and to give her a good life.
When Our children were born, I was so happy. They were my pride and joy. I had such great plans for their lives. Everything was going to be great!
As a boxer, I trained, and prepared, for every fight. I studied my opponents, closely, before ever stepping into the ring with them. I worked, hard, on developing the skills and strategies, it would take, to defeat them, in a fight.
As a husband and father, I had no training, or preparation, at all. As a young boy, only 18 years of age, I was in for the fight of my life, and I didn't even know it. I wasn't prepared, for the battle, that was to come.
The harsh realities of life, for a young, uneducated, man, with a wife and three children, quickly set in on me. There was no more time, ( or money ), to go watch Rocky movies, anymore.
My dream of becoming great, was quickly diminishing. It bothered me. A life of hard labor and impoverished living conditions was not what I had envisioned for my future, or, for the future of my family. I was very unhappy with the whole situation. I tried dozens of "jobs", but none of them satisfied me. I kept thinking to myself, "I'm better than this ! I am a champion, not a laborer ! " I was embarrassed at what my life had become. I could not except it, as it was. I had to find a way to bring 'greatness" into my life. Not only my own sake, but for my families, as well, They deserved a great life. Not one of poverty and lowliness.
I continued to fight the reality of life. I fought, and fought, and fought. I just couldn't find a place where I felt I fit in, or, where I felt I belonged. No matter how hard I tried to "conquer" the world, I couldn't defeat it. I was losing the fight. i was angry and frustrated ! I didn't know what to do.
Roll, knew I was miserably, unhappy. She loved me. She wanted me to be happy. She began to feel that she, and our kids, were holding me back from accomplishing my dreams, whatever they were. She didn't even know what I wanted, anymore. She didn't know how to help me. She didn't know how to make me happy. Finally, she decided, to throw in the towel.
After 15 years of marriage, ( 15 rounds of fighting ), she had the referee stop the fight. Against my will, the officials delivered me the verdict. It was a Technical Knockout, in the fifteenth round. Better known, in fighter terminology, as a TKO.
A, Technical Knockout, is a ruling the boxing judges make, in a fight, where the fighter is still standing ; still trying to defend himself. His prideful, champion heart will not allow himself to go down. He will fight, to his death, before excepting defeat. The fight has to be stopped to prevent this, very possibility, from happening.
A, TKO, is very hard for a fighter to accept. In his mind, he was not defeated. He wasn't finished fighting, yet. He would've found a way to win the fight, if it hadn't been stopped. But the results are final. There's nothing he can do about it. It's something he's going to have to accept, and live with.
I laid my gloves down, that day. You might say, "I took an early retirement." I haven't fought for anything, since. It's been almost 13 years now.
I poured my heart and soul into my last fight. Though, still standing, still trying to fight for the survival of my marriage, and family, I was counted out. I wasn't their champion, anymore. I wasn't anything, anymore.
Since my retirement, my family and friends have done everything in their power to encourage, motivate, and inspire me to rise up, and "fight" for my life again. I can hear their hearts shouting to mine, "Get up, Rocky! Get up ! Your life is not over. It's not to late. You can still be great ! You can still be a winner ! Fight, Rocky, fight ! Fight for your life, like you've never fought before ! Win, Rocky! Win !!!
Over the years, I know I have seemed, un-moved, by their efforts to help me. It wasn't that I didn't want to rise up and fight for my life, anymore. I did, I still wanted to become someone, "great",for them. I just didn't know how.
Now that I've got you feeling all sad, and sorry for "Rocky", please allow me to ask you question. You don't really believe this is going to end up a sad story, do you ?
If there is one thing I learned from watching over a hundred Rocky movies, is that Rocky is no quitter. He may have gotten knocked off his feet, a few times. And ,it's a fact, he even lost a couple BIG fights, in his day. But he always pulled himself back together, and made an incredible, against all the odds, comeback!
I may not be known, by name, as Rocky, anymore. But believe me, the heart of Rocky still lives in me.
I recall, the final scene, from the movie, Rocky 5. Rocky had been challenged to a bare-fisted, street fight, by his, one time friend, and student, Tommy Gunn.
After an equal exchange of blows, given and taken, by each fighter, Rocky was hit by a jaw breaking upper cut that sent him flying through the air, causing his body to smash into a pile of dirty, trash cans, stored in the alley. As Rocky laid, humiliated, flat on his back, covered in trash, it appeared that this one time, great champion, had been defeated.
With his fists still clinched, Tommy Gunn stood over, his once, former teacher, looking down on him with eyes of pity and disappointment. Believing he had won the fight, Tommy turned his back, on Rocky, and started to walk away. He didn't get far, before hearing a voice, coming from the trash pile. Tommy Gunn ! Tommy Gunn ! Where are you going ? I didn't hear no bell ! The fight is not over yet. " Rocky stood up, and then placed one finger in the air, and said, "One more round, Tommy Gunn. One more round."
Rocky, had taught Tommy, as a boxing student, that no matter how hard you get hit, in life, you've got to find the courage to get up, and go one more round.
I've always known the day would come when my heart would heal, my head would clear, and I would demand, of life, a "rematch".
For the last 13 years, I have been preparing for a "comeback", fight, But this time, it's going to be a whole different kind of a fight. Actually, it's not going to be a fight, at all.
My goal, from a very young age, was to become a truly "great" person, in life. Not, necessarily, a champion boxer )Although my intentions were grand, my understanding of what "true greatness" really is, was flawed. It cost me everything.
You see, true greatness, is not found in the heart of the proud, but rather, in the heart of the humble.
True greatness, is not found in the heart of one who desires to be, "king", but rather, in the heart of a servant.
A truly, great person, is one who is willing to sacrifice their life, for a greater cause, than their own.
A truly, great person is a giver, not a taker.
As I grow older, now, I am able to see, and understand these things. But as a younger man, I was blind to them. By exalting myself, and demanding, "greatness," of my life, I became a loser. By expecting, ( rather than giving ), more, I lost everything, most important to me.
You know, what is most ironic, is that I was surrounded in "greatness", all the while, and didn't even know it. Having my family, by my side, a loving wife, and three amazing children, was about as "great" as life gets. Everything else is just trivial.
My son, Grant, was just married, a few weeks ago. He, and his wife, also, just celebrated the birth of their first child. He has a good job, at the hospital, and, he, and his new bride, just bought their first home, together. They now stand in the very same place I stood over 23 years ago. In many of ways, my son is just like me, when I was his age. A fierce, competitor, very hard on himself. I wrote this letter, today, so that maybe he will not make the same mistakes, in his life, and marriage, as I did in mine.
I hope that ,my son, will be able to see, that his life has already acquired, true "greatness". There is nothing greater than having a loving wife, by your side, and a child of your own, that looks up to you. and sees you as "The greatest daddy, in the whole wide world ! " It doesn't get any better than that. I hope that he will not destroy it, by expecting more, and more, and more of himself, like I did. I hope he will be wise enough, and humble enough, to be thankful for all that he has been given, in life. And most of all, I hope that he will commit himself to being a servant, of his family, rather than try to be their, "Champion".
The key to winning the fight of life is not in being a great "fighter," at all. The secret lies in learning how to, surrender.
As for myself, "Rocky", what now ? Is it all over, for me? Of course, not. My family still needs me. The world still needs me. I didn't hear no bell!
One more round, life. One more round.
M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.
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