5 Jun '16     home | people

Muhammad Ali: More of the Story

Print media tells the story of Muhammad Ali better than commercial TV. Ali died on the 3rd or early morning on the 4th. Television does it thing. Is shows a lot of footage of Ali boxing and talking, people cheering and people praising him. This morning an article in the New York Times by Ishmael Reed takes only a minute or so to read and tells more of the story than I've seen on numerous television presentations.

Reed writes that Ali was the greatest boxer of all time, but he was also deeply human, as full of frailty and foibles as anyone, and Reed writes of mistakes that were made:

Early on, doctors warned him and his camp followers that he was getting hit too much while training for his fights. He wouldn't listen, and no one around him tried to persuade him otherwise.

It has been said that Ali should have quit after the Foreman fight. "Instead," writes Reed,

he boxed for another seven years, and paid for it in the subsequent decades of physical and mental frailty. His trainer, Angelo Dundee, said that he was already suffering from brain damage when he fought his last two fights.

Reed goes into details about but the "traveling circus of parasites and hangers on who encouraged him to fight, no matter the damage to his body." Reed writes about Ali's relationship with the Nation of Islam and others and Ali having been generous, "more perhaps than was good for him."

A personal note. Reed separates Ali from the 1960s counterculture that television yesterday associated him with. As a member of the Vietnam Day Committee in 1965 I invited Muhammad Ali to be one of our speakers on the Berkeley campus alongside a few other known intellectuals, including Norman Mailer. Ali politely declined.

Summing up, television news is big on the visual, the video clips, and big on the sentimentalities in a story, but short on other substance. Television is a less efficient means for gathering awareness than reading print, and you can skim and skip where appropriate (which I didn't do in this article) including an immediate bypassing of commercials.

By the way, Ali described the purpose of his bragging as an effort to promote his fights. He spoke of the professional wrestler Gorgeous George (around 1950-51) promoting himself with theatrics. This was something that caught on in professional wrestling, and as a part of our culture it might be connected to what we have been seeing recently in politics with the Trump candidacy.

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