Drago: From Cold War Hero To CRFC Hoop Team

During my junior year at Tufts, I took a required International Relations class that dealt with political propaganda in film. I had very little interest in the international world back then – still donít actually as I donít even own a passport since you donít need one to get into the Venitian, the Luxor, the Bellagio, or the Barbary Coast. The professor showed tons of sophisticated films throughout the semester about Germany, WWII, Vietnam, etc. and our final assignment was to select the film that best embodied the political climate of a particular era. Since I had only seen two movies during the semester (it was an 8:30 AM class), I asked if I could choose a movie not shown in the class. The professor blindly and amazingly agreed so I chose the only international relations movie that came to mind – Rocky IV.

I really wish I still had a copy of that paper, but Smith Coronaís didnít have a lot of memory back then. I do remember how brilliantly my argument was constructed one night, hopped up on a perfect blend of mac ën cheese and mountain dew, beeping my way through all of those misspelled words.  I used a timeline of quotes from the theme song and the movie that perfectly embodied the Cold War era at every turn. To this day it is the best paper I have ever written and thanks to the new B2 team Drago jogging my memory, I am able to provide the following commemoration:


In the warriorís code, thereís no surrender…

An older, yet somehow more ripped Carl Weathers trying to convince Rocky to help him come out of retirement and fight Drago in an ìAmbassador of Goodwillî exhibition fight at the MGM Grande in Las Vegas, perfectly evoking many Americans sentiment in the 1980ís that we must fight Russia in a war to end all wars:


ìWe always have to be in the middle of the action ’cause we’re the warriors. And without some challenge, without some damn war to fight then the warriors might as well be dead, Stallion! Now I’m asking you – as a friend – stand by my side this one last time!


Apollo telling Rocky in the locker room that he isnít going to postpone the fight:


ìDonít you get it, Rock. This isnít an exhibition ñ itís us against them. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about now, but believe me you will when it’s over. You will when it’s over.î


Note the foreshadowing technique used in the last line here by Apollo – pure genius. People think Stallone isnít too bright, but his writing is really superb and his brilliance in deciding not to sell Rockyís script to Hollywood unless he got to play the starring role in the movie is legendary.


…though his body says stop, his spirit cries ñ never!

After the James Brown entertainment and introductions (which includes one of the greatest nicknames of all time for Apollo ñ the Count of Monte Fisto), Dragoís only words before the fight were:


ìYou will lose.î


and after the fightÖ


ìI defeat all man.î


ìIf he dies, he dies.î


Everything Drago says in the movie was short and frosty, not so much to portray Russians as cold and callous, but because the part was played by Dolph Lundgren. Also note that Rockyís cradling of Apolloís head in his lap after the fight mimicked the pose of the Virgin Mary in Michelangeloís Pieta sculpture. And no, I didnít have to look that one up ñI was an art history major and these are the types of things I paid $100,000 to pick up on.


Two worlds collide, rival nationsÖ

Dragoís manager Nikolai Koloff talking to the media about Dragoís training methods, evoking eerie comparisons to Nazi Germany:


ìIt is a matter of size. Evolution. Isn’t it, gentlemen? Drago is the most perfectly trained athlete ever. This other man has not the size, the strength, the genetics to win. It is physically impossible for this little man to win. Drago is a look at the future! Whatever he hits, he destroys.î


I lost a little respect for Sly here as he obviously ripped-off the managerís name by combining  former WWF tag team champions Nikolai Volkoff and Ivan Koloff. By the way, Ivan is now available to speak at your next Christian Church youth group meeting, no lie – www.ivankoloff.com. Bear hugs all around.


Öitís a primitive clash, venting years of frustrations!

Dragoís wife Ludmila (played by the pre-sagging, pre-coke, pre-Flava Flave! Brigitte Nielson) speaking during the press conference about how Americans viewed Russians at the time. Remember, this is all pre-Kournikova and Sharapova:


ìYou have this belief that you are better than us. You have this belief that this country is so very good and we are so very bad. You have this belief that you are so fair and we are so very cruel.î


And Koloff arguing with Paulie about how Americans mistakenly view Russians as killersÖ


ìIt is all lies and enforced propaganda, to support this antagonistic and violent government!î


ìWhoa, violent? Hey, we’re not the ones who keep our people behind a wall with machine guns!î


ìWho are you? ì

ìWho am I? I’m the unsilent majority, bigmouth.î


Bravely we hope against all hopeÖ

Adrian yelling at Rocky from the top of the stairs in her nightgown (which is actually see-through in the uncut DVD) not to fight Drago, expressing many Americans fear of a war with the Russians:


ìIt’s suicide! You’ve seen him, you know how strong he is. You can’t win!î


This quote perfectly represents the split feelings Americans had about fighting Russia. You had the warrior Apollo/Rocky camp and you had the Adriancamp, just like the movie. And Rockyís response could have been used in a recruitment video for the US Army had we gone to war with RussiaÖ


 ìOh, Adrian. Adrian always tells the truth. No, maybe I can’t win. Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he’s got. But to beat me, he’s going to have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s got to be willing to die himself. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that. I don’t know.î Cue Robert Tepper.


Öthere is so much at stake, seems our freedomís up against the ropes!

While Rocky is shown training with large boulders, blocks of wood, and horse carriages, Drago is shown training with computers and having someone inject an unknown substance into his shoulder. No truth to the rumor that the role of that someone was actually played by Jose Canseco.


Rockyís trainer Duke talking to Rocky the night before the fight after a friendly game of chess:


ìYou’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed. But when it’s over, I know you’ll be the one standing. You know what you have to do. Do it.î


This quote served as the inspiration to Nikeís Just Do It campaign.


Itís a battle of wills, in the heat of attack, itís the passion that killsÖ

Rockyís trainer Duke referring to Drago in the middle of the fight:


ìHe’s worried! You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine, he’s a man!î


And then Drago referring to Rocky at the same time:


ìHe is not human, he is a piece of iron.î


The world was upside down at this point of the movie as the Russian starts to see the American as a machine and the American starts to see the Russian as a human. What a transformation! Not quite as much of a transformation as Rocky sporting a fantastic tan in the fight despite training in the Russian winter for the prior 2 months, but he did spend a lot of time by that fire.


After some of the Russian fans begin to cheer for Rocky in the middle of the fight and after Koloff yells at him for allowing this to happen, Drago rips off his most emotional and deepest line of the movie, directly aimed at the Russian premier:


ìI fight for me (nashtravia). FOR ME (NASTHRAVIA)!!!!!!!î


This quote actually served as an inspiration for Mikhail Gorbachev during the Russian capitalist movement of the early 1990ís. I saw Gorbachev speak at a convention in Vegas once and asked him this question and he confirmed it ñ true story.  


Öthe victory is yours alone!

Rocky addressing the Russian crowd after winning the fight:


ìIn here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess thatís better than 20 million.î


I mean, can you get more Cold War than that? And then Rockyís final lines of the movie, summarizing, as only he could, the hope for the future during this tenuous time in AmericaÖ


ìDuring the fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing (basshkara bashkara da bashkra)in the way I feels about youz (basshkara bashkara da bashkra), and the way youz feels about me (basshkara bashkara da bashkra). I guess what I’m trying to say is (basshkara bashkara da bashkara) that if I can change (basshkara bashkara da bashkara), and you can change (basshkara bashkara da bashkara), EVERYONE CAN CHANGE! (BASSHKARA BASHKARA DA BASHKARA!)î


As you can see, my argument was unbelievably convincing. So imagine my surprise when I received my paper back with a big fat D + on it. How could this be? It seemed so clear that this movie shaped more American views of the Russians than any other movie. Sure, there must have been some moderate surprise when the professor 1st saw that I chose Rocky IV as the movie and a song by Survivor to tell my story, but he should have judged it on its own merit and looked passed any hint of chicanery on my part. But seriously, how many Americans have seen Metropolis*? 15? 20? Millions of people have seen Rocky IV and its effects are still very much alive today, as evidenced by CRFCís Drago team name 20 years after the movieís release. So, I went to the professor to talk about it, but was informed that it was the TA who graded my paper and I had to go talk to him.


When I walked into the TAís office, it became immediately clear what was going on here. That TA was not just the TA of the class, but he also happened to be the point guard for the intramural basketball team that my squad just trounced in the semifinals a few weeks earlier on our way to the title! This grade was obviously more about basketball than it was about boxing, so I really felt no need to argue with him b/c at the end of the day I didnít care about my grade. He knew that I knew what was really going on here and that was enough to satisfy me. But as I left his office, I did leave him with one final quote that I am sure haunts him to this day:


ìDo you understand, was it east versus west, or man against man? Can any nation stand, alone?î


*Sorry, I didnít mean to go Dennis Miller on you all, I had to look it up myself. Metropolis is a German movie about their society in the 1920ís and 1930ís.