“You know all there is to know about fighting, so there’s no sense us going down that same old road again. To beat this guy, you need speed – you don’t have it. And your knees can’t take the pounding, so hard running is out. And you got arthritis in your neck, and you’ve got calcium deposits on most of your joints, so sparring is out…
…So, what we’ll be calling on is good ol’ fashion blunt force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast-iron, pile-driving punches that will have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot, it’s gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train. Yeah! Let’s start building some hurtin’ bombs!”
– Duke, “Rocky Balboa” (2006)
I can’t believe it’s been almost 15 years since I clenched my fists in the movie theater and whispered a soft “YEAH”, joining the applauding crowd in response to those inspirational words. I was about 38 then, smiling while agreeing with the applicable points offered throughout Duke’s “Come To Jesus” prep/pep talk with Rocky Balboa. Plotting out their training regimen in preparation for his comeback exhibition match at age-
Jeez? How old WAS Rocky’s character at this point?
Bah. It doesn’t matter. What DID matter is that I was pushing 40, rubbing my sore knee in the movie theater because I was crazy enough to accept a football game invitation. Story for another day that doesn’t end well. Suffice it to say that my days of sprinting down the neighborhood football sideline for an 80-yard touchdown are far behind me.
It’s crazy, the fact that I can remember my final physical milestones:
- 1998 – The last time I dove to catch a line-drive in center field, playing in my brother’s company softball game.
- 1991 – The last time I executed a sloppy, two-handed dunk in an FSU pickup game, trying to impress my then-girlfriend.
- 1987 – The last time I did a 360-degree split in a college halftime show at Florida A&M.
- 1986 – The last time I competed in a 5K.
Now I’m 52 and throwing my hands up in victory after 30 grueling minutes on the Euro-cycle at the local gym. Then I have to worry about collapsing after another 30 minutes of dragging my worn-out ass up a flight of 15 stairs to shower and collapse in bed, dreading tomorrow because it’s Leg day. Damn, I’ve gotten old.
And speaking of stairs, when did THOSE get put in my house? I didn’t get the memo!
There are no more sprints unless my bladder has failed me at 3 a.m. No more dunks unless I’ve got a glass of milk for the donut I’ve hidden from my family. No more splits unless a Twinkie falls on the ground.
But it’s cool. I’m not angry. A little depressed, yes, but not angry. I have no one to blame but myself for my current physical state. But then again, I’m happy to be alive. Happy that I’m making the most of what I have to be the best I can.
And that’s why that speech means so much to me. It reminds me that I have to make the most of what I have to be THE BEST I CAN.
…because in the end, that’s all you can do.