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