For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

May 3, 2009

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee...

It took a lot of years,
But at last I finally see.

As a thirteen year old boy I became caught up in the hype of the 1971 boxing match between Mohammed Ali and South Carolinian Joe Frazier. The March 8 title fight in Madison Square Garden, billed as The Fight of the Century, was compelling in that both fighters came in undefeated and it marked the return of Clay, now Ali, to the ring. The public backlash to the Vietnam War was fever pitch...and the war weary nation was in a forgiving mood concerning Cassius Clay's conscientious objection (which landed him in jail); likewise, Clay's conversion to Islam raised even fewer eyebrows despite the growing Islamic extremism in the Middle East. So, oblivious to the political and religious implications, I threw in with the media favorite Ali. It took me years to realize my mistake.

Eighteen years later amidst my great re-awakening...I began to reevaluate many aspects of my belief system. First, I crawled out of the existentialist hole in which I had descended and accepted the Grace of God and the gift of his Son. Among the more trivial consequences of my revival was the realization that the John Lennon Song Imagine, reeking of moral relevence, really sucked..., and that Mohammed Ali was a traitor and a coward. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise when I saw this article by the always insightful Victor Hanson.

It seems that all sports journalists subscribe to the same slobbering love for Mohammed Ali...and it grates on me every time I hear or read the fawning stories. I thought I'd vomit the night he lit the torch at the Atlanta Olympics. Now, I view Ali, his boxing skill notwithstanding, as an undeserving huckster who hid his cowardices behind a savage religion. It's about time somebody said so. And it's about time somebody said something good about smoking Joe Frazier. He may not have been as good in the ring as Ali, but he was twice the man. The following is from Hanson's article.

III. There was something to admire about Joe Frazier. I have another confession to make, given that I just saw an ad for a new documentary on the Ali-Frazier fights, a film I will try to see soon. Here it is — I never admired Mohammed Ali. Not that much at all. He was a brilliant boxer, but his megalomania ushered a number of deleterious trends into all sports — the ego-driven gestures (which were to be later manifested in everything from spiking the ball to trash talking the opponent) were all repellent.

A mind unclouded by liberalism is a beautiful thing.


  1. Larry, like Hanson, I never liked Ali because of his conceit, either. I think the point is an excellent one..he really DID kind of usher in that era of sports celebs above reproach and expecting adulation. But, we all thought he was so terrific when he first started, didn't we.
    I wonder how much of a practicing muslim he is....

  2. Larry, how right you are. Compare Ali's war record to say Ted Williams. Robbie

  3. Z: 'I wonder how much of a practicing muslim he is...."

    I've often wondered that myself.

    Robbie: Excellent point.

  4. As a kid, I always thought that Muhammed Ali was funny. I liked his sense of humour. But that was before 1979, when I didn't have to think too much about the negative way in which he might influence his sport. I was barely aware of the recently-completed Vietnam War, and I was completely unaware of Ali's story vis-a-vis the war. To me, it was all just loads of fun.

    Looking back on it all, though, I can't disagree with a think you (and VDH) are saying. And as a foaming-at-the-mouth Catholic Christian, I can't help but feel sadness at a conversion that took a man away from Christianity.