We all know this scene -- Rocky Balboa, triumphant after running up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nice, but who would have guessed it has inspired real people to do the same -- not as a goof but in pursuit of a deep, almost spiritual experience. Reporter Michael Vitez and photographer Tom Gralish, both Pulitzer Prize winners from the Philadelphia Inquirer, spent a year recording the stories of the people who re-create Rocky's run up those steps for their new book Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps.
How Stallone's little movie that could has managed to inspire these people to such a degree is a bit of a mystery to me. I was surprised to discover that such people existed and that accomplishing such a thing could be considered worthy of, in many cases, substantial sacrifice. Guardian reports:
...Jabrane became obsessed with the film and one scene in particular: the boxing hero running up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Jabrane knew he had to run the steps himself. In 1998, after four months mopping floors, he had the money to fly to the US and emulate his idol. Freshly inspired, he returned home and began to turn his life around. The high school dropout got a degree and a job with a pharmaceutical firm. These days, whenever the motivation slips he returns to Philadelphia to run the Rocky steps. "I feel great, untouchable, proud," he says.
That story might sound a bit too too, but it's common -- lots of people feel this way. Check out these photos from the dedication of the Rocky statue in Philadelphia last September. Here are some stills from the book (both sets from the Philadelphia Inquirer). Here is the NPR story from November 2006 (this is good stuff). People love what Rocky represents -- the 'bum from the neighborhood' making good. I guess that's not so mysterious after all.