BLS: Muhammad Ali and I “grew up together” …. sorta

Muhammad Ali
BobLee
June06/ 2016

THE Official BobLee Muhammad Ali Column:  If I do this right, I’ll likely ruffle a few feathers…. the ones I try to always ruffle as well as others.  As “a smart aleck with his own website” ruffling feathers is a special privilege I enjoy.

This is NOT about the merits of Muhammad Ali – The Boxer or The Larger Than Life Personality.  This is about society / media’s compulsion to create Larger Than Life Personalities and to deify them.

I am a contemporary of Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali.  He was a few years older but I was old enough when he “bursted on the scene” to have clear memories of his “bursting”.   As he evolved into the larger than life, mythical figure now being eulogized 24/7 and likely so for the next week or so if not longer…. I recall his ascension to Mount Olympus of Celebrities relative to my own Life passage.

I am establishing that time line to distinguish my POV from all the millennial pundits who are weepin’, moanin’ and gnashin’ their teeth now.

I recall Cassius Marcellus Clay winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960.   Handsome fellow with the cool name who wasn’t “real black”.   I recall the Cassius & Cosell Shows.   “Gaseous Cassius”.  Could either CassiusCosell and Clay or Howard Cosell have attained their ultimate celebrity without the other?   Is there a male of my generation who has not done “a Howard Cosell impression”?

STOP:  Has Hillary announced YET that had she not been named after Sir Edmund Hillary (??), the Rodhams’ second choice was Cassius Marcellus Rodham?  If she hasn’t, she will.  What version of “the son I never had” will BHO use this time around.  Will he claim Ali was His Father ???  Who knows?

Had Cassius Marcellus Clay’s “bursting” in the mid 60s not coincided with the Civil Rights Movement and The Civil Rights Act would his ultimate celebrity reached the heights it would reach?

Did the sonorous sound of his “slave name” contribute to his original notoriety?  Had his name been Charles Liston could his ascension been thwarted.   I think athletes with “cool names” have an advantage in the “fame game”.

Speaking of Charles “Sonny” Liston, I once drove thru Lewiston, Maine and remembered why it will forever be “famous” in sports.   Do you know why?

I recall the “name change” and the controversial Conscientious Objector stand in 1966.   I am certain I never uttered the phrase “uppity n*****” at any time during that period.  I am aware that it was uttered by many, but not by me.

I enjoyed his braggadocio schtick.  I also liked Joe Namath’s braggadocio during that same period.  Don’t know who said it but “If you can do it…. it ain’t bragging”.   Probably Bum Phillips said it.   Clay/Ali and Joe “did it”.

You all do know that most of Ali’s famous “He saids” – “Float like a butterfly…. et al” – were actually thunk up by a member of his posse – Drew “Bundini” Brown.

No, I do not equate The Incredible Wonderful Marvelous CAM’s dabbing with Clay/Ali’s / Namath’s “style” at all.

 

Vaughn Meader

In the several days following Nov 22, 1963 I recall wondering what will Vaughn Meader do now?.    Google Vaughn Meader.   Over this past weekend I thought about Carl Weathers.

WHY did I think about Carl Weathers?  Other than “Albert” of course, surely you all understand a Carl Weathers association with Muhammad Ali.

In the 50-60-70s…. The World Heavyweight Champion was THE #1 Name in Sports.  In 2016, you can’t name him.   Same with breaking the four-minute mile.  Do they still run “the mile” in track?  Does anyone care if they do?

In 1972 I drove from Columbia Missouri to St Louis with a guy named Larry to see Ali-Frazier on “closed-circuit” TV in the St Louis Arena.   It was one of a dozen or so “Fights Of The Century” that Ali would be in.   Frazier won on a unanimous decision.  I was pulling for Ali.Floyd Patterson

I was also a fan of Floyd Patterson especially when he fought “Toonder & Lightning” Ingemar Johannsen.   And I was a fan of Sugar Ray Robinson too…  Whoa.  Wait a minute BobLee.  Based on your socio-political persuasion, don’t “you people hate all black folks” especially famous successful ones”?   No.

Who gave you that idea?  The Liberal media.   What does that tell you about “the Liberal media”?

Allowing for a handful of tomato cans – George Chuvalos, Henry Coopers, etc….. every Ali “Fight of The Century” was against “a really scary black guy” – Liston, Frazier, Terrell, Holmes.   Ali never had a Big Fight that was a Black v White Thing.

I left out George Foreman because while Foreman was an intimidating physical presence, his image was of winning the Olympics and waving a little American flag….. while Ali was portrayed as “anti-American” for the CO incident.

Ali naturally became a hero of the anti-American counter-culture a/k/a Barack Obama, William Ayers, Bernadette Dorn et al….Joe Louis

Wonder how many millennial pundits recall Joe Louis – The Brown Bomber – versus Max Schmeling in the 1930s?  Schmeling was The Nazi Champion…. The Symbol of Aryan Supremacy.

Schmeling won in ’36 but Louis knocked him out in the first round in the ’38 rematch.   Schmeling actually was not “a Nazi” at all (his trainer was Jewish) but Hitler claimed him as Aryan any way.

That victory by a “Black” American over Hitler’s Champion was Historical with a capital “H” in the significant way Jesse Owens’ Olympic victories in 1936 was Historical.

I appreciate that modern sports / political pundits of the millennial persuasion (1) have zero knowledge of “history” before Michael Jordan; and (2) what they might learn by accident, they reject because it was “too long ago to be significant”. …. sigh, sob, sniff.

Taking nothing away from Ali’s boxing career or even his “out-of-the-ring” achievements…. I personally don’t put him in the same historical pantheon of Jesse Owens – Joe Louis – Jackie Robinson.

As for “how courageous” Ali was and “all he sacrificed” by his CO decision…. Allowing that I, nor probably most of you, have never taken a public stand of that magnitude.

I will place Ali’s “sacrifice” behind those 50,000 names on the Viet Nam Memorial.

I will place Ali’s “sacrifice” behind every GI who landed on Omaha Beach or Iwo Jima (like my friend Leon) and all the other Omaha Beaches and Iwo Jimas and Tet Offensives.Pat Tillman

I will place “Ali’s sacrifice” behind that of Pat Tillman who gave up NFL millions to join the Army Rangers, go to Afghanistan and pay the ultimate sacrifice….

And, IMO, Ali’s sacrifice pales beside the “First Responders” who charged into The Twin Towers on 9/11 and never returned.

 

And there was an 18 year old kid from rural Indiana….

…… He was a high school “superstar” in basketball and baseball.   He was soooo good in baseball that The Yankees were seriously interested.  But for circumstances you might never have heard of Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto.  He was THAT good.

It was 1950.  America was in another conflict – The Forgotten War – Korea.   That promising young athlete in rural Indiana just turned 18 when he joined the Marines.   A quick few weeks of “basic”.  He was handed a helmet and a rifle and boarded a troop transport….

In mid-November 1950 – just a few months removed from shooting hoops as a bona-fide “Hoosier” hoops legend ….. he was on the bloody frozen killing ground of The Chosin Reservoir.   November 17 to December 13, 1950.Chosin Reservoir

I doubt any ESPN Ali-praisin’ pundits have ever heard of Chosin Reservoir —- “one of” The Bloodiest Battles in American Military History.

That 18 y/o young Marine rifleman from rural Indiana was part of a 30,000 member UN Force fighting 120,000 Chinese Communists troops in sub-freezing temperatures.   We’re talking hand-to-hand combat and daily assaults by 1,000s of heavily armed enemy soldiers.   If you’ve even seen that Mel Gibson movie – We Were Soldiers – about the beginning of The Viet Nam War…. imagine THAT over three weeks in sub-freezing temperatures on a bleak mountainside in Korea…. and you are an 18 y/o high school athlete from rural Indiana.

He survived as one of The Chosin Few, but suffered serious enough wounds that his military career was over…. as well as his once highly-promising sports career.

He stayed in sports however as a coach.   Fate and circumstances had him associated with and directly involved in some of the most significant events and personalities in American Sports History.  Then about ten years ago he stumbled on a website that caught his attention.   He became a regular reader and frequent commentor.  He reached out to “the smart aleck” that ran that site and they became the very dearest of friends…..

That 18 y/o kid from rural Indiana who laid his life on the line – a member of The Chosin Few – is My Hero. 

You know him as “Coach Reed / CNR”.

###

No offense intended for those of you who are reveling in the Glorious Glorification of Muhammad Ali.  I “get” it.  I really do.  Totally predictable.  FWIW…. I thought he was a cool dude.

The particular socio-political faction spearheading that current Glorious Glorification does relish in its enthusiastic worship of demagogues, demi-gods and self-annointed messiahs .   Lordy, “they” have more of’em than the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians and Egyptians combined.

Us goofy ol’ “bitter clingers” choose our heroes and messiahs by different standards.  Different strokes…. different folks.  Takes all kinds.

Under The Obama Regime, America is only allowed to honor “black heroes” so I would appreciate you NOT sharing this column with anyone.  Thanks. I don’t need the hassle from “the Feds”.

OK.  One zinger.   Can you imagine the media frenzy if it was leaked that Muhammad Ali was actually Muhammad Alice !!  If Ali was a trany!  WHApollo CreedOA …..

 

 

Oh…. Carl Weathers?  He played Rocky’s “Apollo Creed” who was, of course, modeled after Clay / Ali.

 

###

BobLee
  • PTH Reply
    12 months ago

    I have been away and recently returned and while I had internet accessibility it was on an open public system. I was also close to Kennels Beach NC ( 10 miles ) and was concerned about the liberal influence in the area. The real BK’s sister once offered me a ride home when I had a flat tire on my bike and had ridden to Kennels Beach from Minnesott Beach, I had a patch kit with me and repaired the tire, but she was a very nice lady. Bob, who I have met several times is also a nice person, but a little different.

    To the point, I went to an Ali training session many years ago, and he was in person, every bit as entertaining as he was on his TV appearances. He was a tremendous personality, though this was while he was not in his prime, he was still one of the most amazing athletes I have ever seen. I do not even remember who his opponent was, but the training camp was at a hotel in the DC area where I was staying for a seminar with the company I worked for. I did not meet him or interact with him in any way other than to watch his workout and listen to part of his press conference. He had charisma and charm to spare,

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      BK’s sister is indeed a very nice person…. and her more notorious brother is “a pieca work” for sure. 🙂

  • 58 Wolf Kennel Reply
    12 months ago

    BL, another well written and well thought-out column. Can’t agree with all of it but learned a lot about boxing that had not been my growing-up sport of choice.
    Absolutely loved Dug’s essay on his grandfather Earl. That’s patriotism, that’s sacrifice, that’s heroism to the hilt. Thanks for the background on CNR as well. Somehow those actual facts don’t surprise me given how much I have seen you admire him over the years.
    Tell Albert it’s okay to miss “RoadHouse”. Just don’t see what many think is so great. Other classics I agree with.
    Finally, I became an Ali fan relatively late in life. Always thought he was a great fighter and showman but that wasn’t my bag. Didn’t discount him because of his Viet Nam stance, and over the years felt his attitude was sincere.
    Two simple vignettes: When my company, Louisville Gas & Electric was a major host of the US Open in Louisville in the ’90’s, we had a special tent honoring Ali in the spectator area. Had the “scepter” he used for lighting the Atlanta Olympics as I recall.
    Finally my wife’s Parkinson’s disease was going downhill two years ago when our oldest daughter Phyllis had a good friend at Duke touted to be one of the three top Parkinson’s Doctors in the country. Dr. Stacy had not taken any new patients for 5 years but agreed to see Elaine and took her on as a patient. Phyllis has told Stacy thank you so much for giving her “my mother” back again. Turns out that Stacy was also Ali’s doctor, and there is recent interview about Ali’s grace and funds in setting up Stacy’s Parkinson’s research center in Phoenix in the late ’90’s and early “00”s. Small worlds again. Everybody contributes something in this life !!! Thank goodness !!

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      Would never picture you as a RoadHouse kinda guy BK. …. Our mutual Wake Forest Wuff buddy has recommended a new Tech Support service that I have just switched over to. VERY excited about the future of BLS (and your pal AgentPierce too of course).

  • Tom the Wuff Reply
    12 months ago

    Well, where do I start? First of all, must say that was one of your better columns as it provoke many thoughts, comments and curiosities. Secondly, I enjoyed reading Doug’s writing also! Thanks to you both!

    As a mere lad of 18, I joined the Marine Corps Reserves (1961-1970), so I could attend college at the same time. That suffices as an explanation for most of my persona. Now, as for Jane Fonda! Forgetabouther! A traitor who many have excused because “she was young and did not know better!” Uh, bulls–t! And put hillary-dickory-dock in that same category, but w/o the youth excuse! “What difference does it make?” I like many of the same famous “heroes” you and others mentioned, but favor no particular one! I have always liked Satchel Paige and especially his response to the frequently asked question how old he was! “How old would you be if you didn’t KNOW how old you was?” he responded! Yes indeed, I was a teenager in the 50’s and STILL say that was the greatest decade ever! BUT, you do have me confused and perhaps I just missed something! I thought Phil Rizzuto was born in New York, played many years for the Yankees and was in the MLB HoF? Hated the Yanks as I was a Dodger fan! After working in all of South America and Western Europe, I later came to respect the Yankees as the worldwide (?) icon of baseball!

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      CNR was a VERY good prospect. The Yankees scout projected him as a major league SS… he mighta / coulda gotten the job that Rizzuto held. 🙂

  • Prince.Albert Reply
    12 months ago

    I can’t believe you did not think I knew about Carl Weathers. He was my hero in ROCKY as well as the next one or two. I have not seen “CREED”as yet….got to do it before I see “ANIMAL HOUSE.”

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      OHHH NOOO!!! – 🙂 … When we are partners on Celebrity Team Jeopardy, I now know what Category to pick – “Rocky”. I need to add RoadHouse to the ALBERT MUST SEE list. 🙂

  • Fred Reply
    12 months ago

    That was a super column!!! Always interesting to “meet” some of your friends….Know I”d like him to….

    so… I get the Coach Reed.. but.. of what, and where?? Know I’ve missed other hints.. but.. those men that gave all… are really special….. I knew so many that had served in the Pacific.. and a few in Europe…. one in Patton’s tanks in the 3rd Army as they marched across Europe… he had 2 tanks blown out from under him… saw him pick shrapnel our of his arm… another who picked it out of his ankle… he got his in Normandy enough to come home after a week or so…

    Really nice column…

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      Two of the “most storied” programs in BTCB as Asst to two mega-legends… and many years in Nawlins HS BB. I call him the Forrest Gump of American Coll BB from 1960-1990.

  • BR.TRIAD Reply
    12 months ago

    having served in vietnam, I am not a big fan of his. I don’t care for jane fonda and bill clinton either, and a lot of people say, “get over it!” I will after they serve a year overseas in a war and come home to tell me how much fun it was.

    …. I enjoyed your column today! I’ll be so glad when friday is over, and hopefully I won’t have to hear about what a great person cassius clay was any more. elijah muhammed took all his money, and he made a huge mistake when he became a follower. lots of people will miss him, but I’m not one of ‘em.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      I count much of the mega-adulation as simple ignorance… which is in abundance these days.

  • BaltimoreHeel Reply
    12 months ago

    Hi BL! Agree perfectly with your Ali post. May I add my 2 cents? I feel it quite ironic that he converts to Islam, “the religion of peace”? in order to claim CO??? He is a boxer, a profession of violence! Then, according to the documentary I saw on HBO, Joe Frasier (my favorite boxer), works hard to help Ali get back into boxing. Then Ali made it a point to stab Joe in the back every chance he got. I shook hands with Joe Frazier in his later years. In my short experience with him…a humble man. Ali was entertaining and a great boxer. I give him that. But not a personality I ever cared for. And why would anyone ever allow him to light the Olympic Cauldron after cowering from his military responsibility to the country? It must be true…the most important thing is “what have you done for me lately?”
    Baltimoreheel

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      Muslims weren’t viewed the same way in the 60s as today. Granted his decision, and Lew Alcindor’s too, did raise eyebrows but not like it would now.

  • Doug Reply
    12 months ago

    Thanks for the great story on CNR. I’ve learned a real hero will rarely reveal themselves to others. Another 18 year old kid named Earl from rural eastern NC became my grandfather and much, much later he became MY hero. He wasn’t an athlete. As far as I know he never had a chance to play games growing up. I was never close to him. I didn’t understand him and frankly never tried. He was not the helicoptering grandfather type. I can’t remember a single time we had an intimate granddaddy-grandson moment. We didn’t have a bad relationship but I never really knew him despite spending entire summers with him barning tobacco as a 12-15 year old kid. Earl was an enigma to me. When I was 19 he died of respiratory complications. A week or so before he died, at my late mom’s insistence, I sat with him alone for an entire afternoon at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro. I don’t recall a single thing we talked about but I do recall he was just as economical that day as with any conversation we ever had.

    Earl was drafted into WWI and became PFC Earl. In 1998, almost 30 years after his death, I learned he was a machine gunner in a unit that was attached to the Tennessee Volunteers. His weapon was a British made Vickers water-cooled machine gun. His “water boy” was from Chattanooga and became his best friend in combat and remained friends for life. In what became known as The Battle of Saint Quentin Canal, in those dreadful trenches somewhere near the French-Belgium border, one night his unit was ordered to advance on German positions on the Hindenburg Line. The German’s had the same orders. So there they all were. Stuck in no man’s land when both sides started bombarding everyone “out there” with artillery. PFC Earl and his water boy who was wounded in the leg by some shrapnel found some cover in an abandoned remnant trench and waited until the artillery fire subsided. Once it ended PFC Earl noticed the leg wound to his WB was serious. He also discovered they were not alone. In the same trench there were 5 equally young terrified, cold, wet, muddy, hungry, German soldiers who immediately surrendered when they saw his machine gun pointed directly at them. Right then and there PFC Earl decided he was having no part of ushering POW’s back to his unit. PFC Earl used hand signals to tell the German’s to head back to their side. Once they cleared out Earl helped his buddy back so he could get his leg attended to. His friend lost that leg that night. Did PFC Earl miss his chance to become a bonified war hero? Maybe. We’ll never know. Did he even care about medals or recognition? I know enough about the man to say it never crossed his mind, either then or 50 years later.

    PFC Earl was also wounded twice during that war. Both times he was patched up and sent back to his trusty water-cooled Vickers. One wound, compliments of the German technology was Mustard Gas which was why he suffered from lung problems the rest of his 79 years. He also received shrapnel wounds in his arms and legs which were never removed. The risk of surgical infection was far more dangerous than a couple of pounds of metal shards. Twice wounded (no million dollar bullet in WWI) he was sent to a small town named Rethel, France for one wound and another time was sent to a hospital in Wales to recover.

    PFC Earl came home back to his eastern NC dirt farm and was also a Justice of the Peace for awhile but he mostly just farmed and never spoke to any of his grandchildren about his war days. A few years after he came back and married Elizabeth (Bessie) they named their first son for those two places in France and Wales he was sent to that saved his life. Rethel Wales became my daddy and, God willing, will celebrate his 93rd birthday on June, 10th this week. My mom always said I had PFC Earl’s “ways.” I don’t know about that because I never really knew him. But I’ll take it. A man could be accused of worse I suppose. Agent Pierce has seen PFC Earl’s picture as a WWI Doughboy but I doubt he’s ever told you who it was. ?

    Thanks for this piece. I enjoyed Ali’s antics and what he accomplished but would never, ever consider him above folks like CNR or PFC Earl. No knock on “The Greatest” at all but I’ve been fortunate to know of and to learn of even greater ones.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      I bet there are/were A LOT of “Earls” no one will ever know about. None of’em will get a nationally televised funeral….

      • Doug Reply
        12 months ago

        Extraordinary ordinary people.:-)

  • The Hammer Reply
    12 months ago

    Henry Cooper a what? Well Bob Lee, you must have missed that fight. As I recall Cooper was Commonwealth Champion and knocked Ali silly at Wembley (I was once silly at Wembley but it was during a CSN&Y concert some 11 years later). Ali’s corner cut his glove so as to allow extra time for his recovery. Yeah, I’m almost sure that happened (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN9Qi_yyUbo). Well I’ll be, I was right.
    Yes yes, Ali was the better boxer, no doubt about that. But on the night Cooper was robbed!

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      Maybe I confused him with Chuck Wepner. 🙂

  • GrahamPacker Reply
    12 months ago

    Like most of us old Southern rednecks, I, too, had little initial affection for Clay’s showing off. Everyone thought that his initial big fight against Sonny Liston was staged by how the “ko” looked fake. I did as well-that is until I finally got to see a really slow motion film of the damage inflicted with a mere 6 inch punch. I didn’t think that was possible until I saw it. Over time I slowly began to see that this loudmouth WAS the greatest fighter I ever saw. He was an unreal phenomenon of a 6′-3″, 212 Lb man with the quickness and speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard, an almost impossible-to-beat challenge for any boxer ever. So despite his draft dodging and Al Sharpton like persona-traits that most with my background never accepted-I still believe that he actually was the “greatest” fighter ever.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      I am not enough of an expert on pugilism – a/k/a “The Sweet Science” to confirm that but he would certainly be on “the short list”. I think the original “Sugar Ray” is on most lists too.

  • JoeH Reply
    12 months ago

    I concur with the earlier poster – very sure everyone ‘back then’ said it was Dizzy Dean’s response to someone commenting on a boast of his. I even think I recall him claiming he said it during one of his tv play-by-play game banters with his side-kick. You being a SL Cardinals man, should know Dizzy’s laurels well. Who was his side-kick ( a lesser know BB player) on the Saturday (?) Game of the week?

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      Buddy Blattner.

  • Arnold '69 Reply
    12 months ago

    IMO,another one for the all the all time classic list. I think Dizzy Dean made the comment about it isn’t bragging if you can do it or something close. Salute to CNR.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      When in doubt go with Peahead Walker or Al McGuire. Coulda been Dizzy too.

  • TJ Reply
    12 months ago

    Ali came to Randolph Macon while I was a student to defend his CO stand, he was politely received but really it was tough to see such a specimen of a young man refusing to serve. An interesting afternoon but it paled when compared with an evening I spent with Art Donovan’s dad who was Arthur Donovan the fighter and later boxing referee for most of the great battles during the 40’s. He told me that when Schmeling hit Joe Louis in their first fight for a KO that he was sure an ambulance would not be needed and a hearse would be called.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      Those were tumultuous times in the mid 60s… not saying that these times are not also “tumultuous”. But Louis got even real quickly in #2.

  • TheCowdog Reply
    12 months ago

    He was 17, and it was a mistake …he’ll be the first to tell ya.

    Anywho, the liberal media had nothing to do with the chills that overwhelmed my cynical ass standing in the LA Coliseum that night in ’84, as the “Greatest ” put the flame to the cauldron.

    • TheCowdog Reply
      12 months ago

      Talk about dementia, that was Atlanta ’96.

      • BobLee Reply
        12 months ago

        I didn’t recall him doing it in LA but I wasn’t going to challenge you on it. I believe in Atlanta an archer was also involved.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      I knew he lit the flame in Atlanta. Did not recall LA. He was certainly worthy of doing so.
      .
      In our discussion of his experience I don’t recall Coach saying that but you always seem quite sure of yourself, so whatever…. 🙂

  • Chip Reply
    12 months ago

    I was in elementary school during Ali-Frazier I and asked my dad, an Army veteran, who he was pulling for. He replied Frazier. I asked why and he told me because Ali dodged the draft. So I cheered for Frazier (besides how can you not love the name “Smokin’ Joe and i was a freshman at State when he boxed Monte Kiffin). I eventually came to like and respect Ali but not serving when called still gnaws at mebut we had a draft dodger in the White House so… My dad still hasn’t gotten over that.

    • BobLee Reply
      12 months ago

      I can appreciate his feelings. I “got a high lottery number” and have always wondered how that changed my life. I’m betting your dad doesn’t care for Jane Fonda either. Neither do I.

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