I don’t know if Mickey (the late great Burgess Meredith) is so much a shoulder to cry on as he is tough, but that’s not the point. Mickey is the father figure young Rocky Balboa needs at his crossroads, and the wizened old trainer is more than willing to offer up love, albeit of the “tough” variety. Before they team up, Rocky asks why the old man gives him so much shit, and he answers with the stuff Oscar-nominated performances are made of: “Okay, I’m gonna tell ya’! You had the talent to become a good fighter, but instead of that, you become a leg-breaker to some cheap, second-rate loan shark!” When Rocky replies, “It’s a living,” Mick counters with, “It’s a waste of life!”
And he’s right, of course. From this point on, Rocky’s focus begins to change. He will be a boxer, first and foremost. He will commit to Adrian. He will be the best he can be. There’s a reason why Rocky is considered not only one of the greatest sports films of all time, but one of the flat-out greatest movies of all time. The film inspires us to go out and kick ass after we watch the protagonist himself get inspired. There is a hope that is instilled in Rocky by his mentor that many of us long for at certain points in our life, and we should all be so lucky to have a Mickey in our corner.