I have nothing against Sylvester Stallone. I thought the first Rocky movie was great.
By Tom Cardella
I thought the first Rocky movie was great. I was less in love with the 100 sequels that followed. I hate to break it to the tourists who plan to visit Philadelphia, but Rocky isn’t real. If you’re coming to this great city to pose next to the Rocky statue or eat a cheesesteak, we’ll gladly take your money. But forgive me if I question your tastes.
I know it’s heresy as a guy who’s lived all his life in South Philly to come down on Rocky, but geez, when is enough, enough? By the way, many of those scenes in the first Rocky movie weren’t filmed in South Philly, but Kensington. We know the difference. Rocky isn’t as phony as that terrible movie “10th and Wolf,” which was filmed in Pittsburgh, but it isn’t 100 percent authentic either. What? They couldn’t find enough grit to film the entire movie in South Philly?
Anyway, you might legitimately wonder what has brought on my rant about Rocky. After all, the matter of placing the Rocky statue at the foot of the Art Museum has already been litigated. And Vincent van Gogh lost to Stallone on that one by a unanimous decision. But along came the NFL to put the relevance of the Rocky statue in the national spotlight again. The NFL insisted on holding its annual draft in Philadelphia this year — that’s the good news. The bad news is that, according to reports, the NFL insisted the draft be held on the parkway encompassing the Art Museum. And not because pro football fans are known for their love of the Dutch masters.
The NFL commissioner apparently chose the Parkway over the South Philadelphia sports complex because he wanted the event to be held in the proximity of the Rocky statue. I’m not aware of Rocky’s connection to the NFL. He might have been a fullback for the Washington Native Americans, but I think that was John Riggins. You would think the NFL Draft would have a more meaningful connection with the actual area where this city’s football team plays its games. Games played in the eternal quest of a Super Bowl (or is it the Holy Grail)? The Super Bowl seems more elusive. Turns out Rocky not only beat van Gogh, he beat the NovaCare Complex on a technical knockout.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of the folks who live in the sports complex area are probably happy this weekend’s NFL Draft will inconvenience the hoity-toity people in the parkway area and not themselves. We South Philadelphians fervently believe in our own role as destiny’s victims. Despite getting extra security, some part-time jobs and a street cleaning crew out of the uneasy compromise that also brought us clogged traffic and sports bars that serve $10 fries, we cling to our self-image as The Oppressed.
We don’t want anything else down here anymore. Not a casino, not shops and not restaurants, even if these entrepreneurs promised us more marble statues of lions to place on our front lawns. If the city fathers (and mothers) and the NFL are on board with holding the annual draft within cozy distance of the Rocky statue, so be it. But your columnist sees this decision as just another factor that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Or as Kellyanne Conway would say, this is just another example of an alternate fact.
Too many people visiting Philadelphia think Rocky is real. No. Ben Franklin is real. Ben actually did fly a kite in an electrical storm. At least I think he did. Ben Franklin was a real hero. Rocky did not fight somebody called Apollo Creed. And even if he did, he wouldn’t be as important as Ben Franklin. Real stuff happened in Philadelphia. Think Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell. True — Bill Conte didn’t write a terrific score for the historical events. Don’t confuse real heroes with fake heroes. Like the folks who visit Boston and rush to see a saloon called Cheers and expect Ted Danson to be serving beers behind the bar. Or those tourists who go to New York to visit the observation deck of the Empire State Building not because it’s great seeing Manhattan from the observation deck, but because that’s where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were supposed to meet in “Sleepless in Seattle.” What next? Someone asking Bill Nye “the Science Guy” where the planet Krypton is located?
Am I just a nitpicker? Is it really important why tourists come to a city so long as they enrich Philadelphia’s coffers? I think it is. The blurring of lines between what is real and what is not might have helped elect Donald Trump president. A society that can’t distinguish between what is real and fiction is a society that can and did elect a reality TV star as its president.
You want a real Philadelphia boxing champion? We have Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Those of us living in South Philadelphia can visit 17th and Ritner streets. There you’ll find a plaque dedicated to the great light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran. Loughran was not only real, he lived in our neighborhood. He’s part of our history and he’s been too long forgotten.
By the way, we are a lot more than just cheesesteaks, too.