24 April 2013




"Sports, Identity, Stories, and Images --

and the Boston Marathon"


by Dr Eric Miller

Director, www.storytellinginstitute.org



If things are what they seem, and the 26-year-old older brother led the bombing of the recent Boston Marathon, this could be seen as a painful, ironic, and tragic twist on the Rocky story, on Sylvester Stallone's life story, and on an archetypal sports-hero story. (Beginning in 1976, Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in a series of movies about a fictional boxer named Rocky.  In real life, Stallone had also been an aspiring professional boxer.)


The 26-year-old older brother who is accused of leading the bombing of the recent Boston Marathon was a very serious and excellent boxer for a number of years. He competed in the USA National Golden Gloves competition in Salt Lake City in 2009 (in the heavyweight division).


He was the subject of a 2010 photo essay (in a student magazine of Boston University) entitled "Will Box for Passport: An Olympic Drive to Become a United States Citizen."


So it seems he was hoping to assimilate into the USA in the sense of winning citizenship in part through his boxing.  He was hoping to represent the USA in the Olympics, and thus to become a USA national hero -- just as Rocky wanted to be a USA national hero as a boxer (and achieved this goal, in the Rocky movies.)  Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the Rocky movies and played Rocky onscreen, also made it -- in a very big way -- in the USA.  Both Stallone and his Rocky creation are of Italian-immigrant heritage.


The 26-year-old older brother in Boston was, it seems, not making it in the USA.  He had been excluded from boxing on the top USA amatuer level: he was not allowed to compete in the 2010 National Golden Gloves competition due to a rule change (non-USA citizens were no longer allowed to compete).  Only through the Golden Gloves competition can one qualify for the USA Olympic team. 


In part due to this occurrence, he turned away from boxing, which had supplied such an important part of his identity.  It seems it was at this time that he especially drifted towards an anti-USA worldview.  (It seems he could have turned pro as a boxer: why he did not do so is unknown.)


It seems to make sense that a bitter person involved in sports, and living in the Boston area, might have conceived of attempting to shatter the Boston Marathon.  The Boston Marathon is public cultural programming representing Boston (and the USA) as a gathering place for athletes from around the world -- gathered in the names of joy, exhilaration, and global harmony.


It seems this might have been a case of: if a character could not become a sports hero of a nation, then this character might have decided to attack a sports symbol of that nation (and the nation itself).


It seems this might be an excruciatingly sad story (for all concerned) about a character who felt he was not achieving an American Dream, and instead decided to attack what he had previously aspired to (sports glory in the USA).  Sylvester Stallone, and his creation Rocky, did achieve the sought-after glory.  This occurred through Stallone making movies featuring images of himself, and distributing the movies worldwide.  Still and moving images of the 26-year-old older brother in Boston were also distributed worldwide -- but this led to the older brother's downfall.  His life story did not have a "Hollywood ending."