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Spring Classics Midterm Grades… Don’t Ask

Rocky Balboa takes on Clubber Lang in Rocky III

I’ve been to plenty of fun movies in my life, being of a certain age, and a large slice of that experience is the sports film. A typical sports film creates some sort of compelling sports conflict which builds and smolders and works its way to a stunning sports conclusion that solves the entire conflict. People at the cinema might even cheer a bit, because the actors can definitely hear them through the screen and the projector and whatnot.

But what if sports movies were more like real life? Take Rocky III, probably the spiciest of the Rocky films, which is not the same as being the “best” or the “least racist” but anyway it was a hoot back in its day. What if Rocky and Mr. T were circling each other, but then just before their scheduled fight, Rocky hurt his back or something and Mr. T just fought another random C-list “contender” instead. And then Rocky worked his way back to health, through a great deal of training which somehow fit neatly into a musical-sounding montage, with Apollo urging him onward. But then just before the big fight finally happens, Mr. T trips while mowing his lawn (huge DIY guy) and fractures his ankle, so Rocky just fights one of the sparring partners from Apollo’s gym.

Photo by James Drake/Getty Images

That’s a shit movie, let me tell you. Nobody is cheering at the screen after that, even if they think an all-seeing Sylvester Stallone can definitely hear them. Nobody is anxiously anticipating Rocky IV at that point. In fact, for that movie to even get made, Rocky would have to defeat communism, reverse the ending of the Vietnam War, and stop the British from burning the White House in 1812. Otherwise, who cares.

Well, that’s what it’s like being a cycling fan right now. That’s absolutely what we got from the cobbled classics. I’m not saying they weren’t worth watching — they always are, the scenery is compelling, the cycling is truly mind-numbing, and there’s always some action. But the drama ended at fucking Dwars, or perhaps even before when a bunch of sports directors decided to send major Flanders favorites to a Wednesday-before race that nobody needed to do.

[I get that crashes are part of the sport, of course, and it’s bad form to bemoan them all in hindsight as if anyone should have seen them coming. Unlike Dwars, the Itzulia crash just saddens me. But there’s also a…

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