A Thanksgiving Tradition: Rocky and the Holiday That Gave Us One of the Greatest Franchises Ever

A Thanksgiving Tradition: Rocky and the Holiday That Gave Us One of the Greatest Franchises Ever

“To you it’s Thanksgiving, to me it’s Thursday.”

The true beginning of the holiday get-togethers is when Thanksgiving rolls in along with an additional ten pounds added to your gut- and it’s also time for a Rocky marathon fellas. I mean, anytime is a GREAT time to go the distance with all the movies, however, I’ve always associated the Rocky franchise, and is played on a good rotation over the holiday season over here, especially the first one, with Thanksgiving, and for good reason.

True, the turkey holiday might not be the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the series, but it’s the holiday showcased in the first half of the 1976 film that begat Rocky’s journey toward his future boxing career and most importantly, the love of his life Adrian. Not to mention most of the franchise with the exception of Rocky III and Rocky Balboa were theatrically released around the Thanksgiving holiday and both Creed movies to boot.

It all starts after a series of unfortunate events that follow Rocky through the days leading up to Thanksgiving. It’s obvious in the beginning when we see Rocky and Adrian’s interaction at the pet store where she works, that he is definitely interested in the girl. It’s subtle, but Adrian seems to reciprocate a shy smile after some bad jokes.

Then there’s the little “yo-yo” Marie. The man tries to do a good deed by giving some equally good advice but instead gets a giant “Screw you creep-o,” making Rock-o look like a giant turkey himself.

We also have the incident with Gazzo the Loan Shark whom Rocky works as an enforcer. But as we’re learning even early on in the film, the heavy-hitting nightclub boxer has a heart of gold and can’t just “break people’s thumbs”. But, that hesitancy hits him in hot water with the guy that’s helping him pay his own bills.

Also, worth noting that Gazzo doesn’t get nearly enough credit in this movie. Ok, he doesn’t have the best reputation as a traditional good guy, but he really helped Rocky out in this film and definitely had a soft spot for the Southpaw. So, I just want to take a moment and say cheers to the guy who helped fund the world’s greatest fictional boxer.

And finally, we have the incident with Mick, which is also the first introduction we have to this important character as he berates the ever-loving shit out of Balboa the Tomatah’ while taking his locker away.

All this to say leads up to that eventful Thanksgiving evening, or just another Thursday as Rocky would put it as he meets up with his buddy Paulie at the Lucky Seven Tavern, a local shithole dive bar seen a few times throughout the franchise. Paulie is a prick from the get-go and stays that way for the next 5 films, and while it’s hard to see, he does have some good in him. Beyond the fact that Rocky digs him enough to put up with his shit, he must see it a whole lot deeper than the rest of us- but that’s what makes Rocky’s character so likable. The guy is just nice to everyone. After making some small talk in the bathroom expressing his frustrations to Paulie about life and the fact Paulie’s sister Adrian, won’t give him the time of day, a tipsy Paulie takes Rocky back to his house where he lives with Adrian to set them up on a date- on Thanksgiving.

Adrian at first is really not having it and seeing it from a woman’s perspective, I get it, man. The girl is very shy, has been slaving away all day cooking a nice turkey meal, and here comes her drunkard big brother late at night with a surprise date for her after she’s been in the kitchen cooking and sweating for goddess knows how long. She clearly expresses that she isn’t DISINTERESTED in the date itself, but that she isn’t “ready” for this moment and tries to wiggle out of it with the Thanksgiving excuse.

Paulie being the dick he is remedies that notion, sending Adrian over the edge and eventually she succumbs to the date idea. It wasn’t an ideal way to get these two love birds together finally, but if Paulie wasn’t such a shmuck, she may not have agreed not just to the date, but also to the idea of getting away from her jerk brother for a few hours. Two birds, one stone, right?

That seemingly insensitive act on Thanksgiving night sparks the flame at the center of the Rocky movies my friends. Rocky was never supposed to be a boxing movie; Rocky IV totally was, but not the original and certainly not the sequel that came two years later. It’s a love story for the ages, and the Thanksgiving date sequence is just as important as the final round of the 1976 treasure birthed off a spiral red notebook that a down-on-his-luck Sly managed to scribble down in. Because had none of that happened, Rocky probably would have died in the slums of Philadephia with nothing to fight for. Adrian was the reason he took the shot with Creed and went the distance. She was this man’s love and muse; so let us give thanks for the Thanksgiving that brought these wandering souls together and brought forth another cool holiday tradition around this household.

If Rocky ain’t on the TV, it ain’t Thanksgiving.

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