Aaron David

A fourth generation Californian, befuddled.

Related Post Roulette

74 Responses

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    Sportsman of the Century

    Interesting implied question. He is certainly a top candidate. Babe Ruth is another. There undoubtedly are other candidates, though none spring to mind at the moment.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      Jackie? The yin to Ali’s yang…

      Even the career he actually had (the second half of the career he should have had) was HOF-worthy, give him five more years and he basically has the career of a better-fielding Rod Carew, and is a ten-win-a-year player at his peak. Also a legitimately great college athlete in three sports in addition to baseball, back when that status meant more than it does today (due to the rise of professionalism in football and basketball).

      Obviously, there’s the MLB integration thing. In addition, I can’t help but think that having been in the same backfield at UCLA as Kenneth Washington had some impact on the latter’s (re)integration of the NFL even if they had no actual contact (I don’t know either way).

      Not as outspoken as Ali (who is?), but not afraid to take an unpopular position (support for Nixon comes to mind). And both personally and by on-field example helped the Civil Rights movement immensely.

      Legitimate all-time great player. Impeccable sportsman on the field and impeccable person off it.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to El Muneco says:


        Richard queried “sportsman of the century” which I view to be more limited to the “sports” part of “man”, but even along those lines I’d still have to go with Ali. Jackie certainly broke down barriers at great personal cost while still satisfying all the “great athlete” criteria, but Ali went thru comparable costs while breaking down perhaps even more important barriers (civil rights issues PLUS international ones) while being, in my opinion, the single most enigmatic, charismatic, influential athlete ever.

        I won’t push too hard on it tho, since the significance of what Jackie went thru to accomplish the changes that resulted is pretty damn hard to argue against.Report

        • El Muneco in reply to Stillwater says:

          I’m certainly not insisting on it. Given the uniqueness of his situation and the breadth of his contributions, it was a no-brainer to me that he should be in the conversation. As you note, that doesn’t mean he deserves to prevail.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to El Muneco says:

            No, I get that. Who else, tho? There’re great athletes who’ve done truly remarkable things, but in terms of influence that has lasting, important effects extending beyond their sport there really aren’t many who come to mind.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

              Both Ali and Robinson were WELL before my time.

              My (admittedly incomplete) understanding of both makes it obvious where Ali’s non-sport impact was but I’m not clear on Robinson’s. Did breaking MLB’s color barrier lead to change — directly or indirectly — elsewhere? Did it change hearts and minds? Did other institutions point to it when desegregating? I ask these questions genuinely… I really don’t know.Report

            • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

              I seem to remember a basketball player from Africa who was sending his proceeds back home (he had wanted to be a doctor, but claimed this would do more good)…Report

        • Francis in reply to Stillwater says:

          Offered for discussion: Jackie showed that black players had the skill and the grit to overcome endemic racism and compete in the big leagues. To do so, he had to be the perfect gentleman. Or, to be coarse, he had to be white in public.

          Ali showed that a black man could be true to himself and drag the world to his point of view. Or, to be coarse, he created a space for black people to be black in publicReport

          • Stillwater in reply to Francis says:

            Been thinking about this Francis, and I think you’re onto something here. I mean, I never thought about in those terms, but I think you’re right, even tho as a white guy I’m hesitant to phrase things in that way.

            So I’d say it this way: Jackie had to “be white” in public – and way beyond real-world white, like idealized gentlemanly white – for his little experiment of a black man trying to fulfill his hopes and dreams to work. And I think I can say without too much controversy that Ali made it acceptable (or at least a worthy goal) for black people to bring their culture along for the professional ride into “white” society. But I think he did even more than that, otherwise I don’t think I’d hold him in such high regard: he made it acceptable (or at least a worthy goal) to bring one’s own personal, deeplyfelt views into the prevailing society even when, and especially when, expressing those views comes at great cost.

            Or in other words, it seems to me that a white kid like me could identify with Ali in a way black people also could, but that there’s more to Ali than a white guy like me could ever really understand.Report

            • The hole in this theory is that Robinson had agreed to turn the other cheek only for his first two years. Starting in 1949, he fought back, publicly and quite vocally, to the point where Walter O’Malley, who owned the team Robinson played for, said that he was sick of Robinson’s beefs. There’s a good piece about this at, of all places, Reason.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Can you imagine having to make that deal?

                “We think you’re a good player and we want you on our team, but before we sign you you’re gonna have to agree to not respond to any race-based insults, degrading humiliations, or death threats? Deal?”


                “Fair enough. …. How about for two years?”Report

              • Robinson died of a heart attack at 53, having gone very quickly from a physical marvel to a wreck. I don’t think the reason for that is anything other than stress from suppressed anger.Report

      • (the second half of the career he should have had)

        This is less true than usually thought. Jackie was born in 1919, so he was going to lose about three years to WWII, just as Ted Williams, Pee Wee Reese, and many others did. Even if he had skipped college and then gotten to the majors at 21, like Reese, the only years he would have lost are ’40, ’41, ’42, and ’46.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to El Muneco says:

        I am late to the follow-up discussion here, having gone to bed early last night. My off-the-cuff response is that based on what happened on the field, Robinson was very very good: an obvious no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. Ruth was transcendent. If you believe in WAR, take a look at this:

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I think that Mohammed Ali beats Babe Ruth as the greatest athlete of the 20th century in terms of length of career and also is effect/presence in the broader culture especially because of his resistance to being drafted into Vietnam.

      In terms of other athletes who made a stand for civil rights, there is Jackie Robinson. Maybe Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax refusing to play on Yom Kippur but that is not the supreme sacrifice that Ali made.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Also Babe Ruth was playing against a pretty significantly limited player pool.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

          Didn’t he play against all the same players as everyone else?Report

          • Nevermoor in reply to Stillwater says:

            Only if you pretend the Negro Leagues didn’t existReport

            • Stillwater in reply to Nevermoor says:

              But he still played against all the same player as everyone else, yes?Report

              • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                But the talent pool in the majors was thinner then in later decades. He played against the same as others but the league in general was weaker. There were no Negro League player, many of whom were great players. There were also no hispanic players. The level of talent is much much higher in the last few decades. Babe played against lots of , what would be now, AAA players. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t incredible, he just played in a different era.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

                You guys are acting like I’ve never heard of the Negro Leagues. 🙂

                Ruth dominated his era. If players – pitchers – were so shitty back then (because of segregation) why didn’t a whole slew of people have 700+ homeruns? Ruth was waaaay ahead of his contemporaries, players facing the same competition he was.Report

              • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                He was the first real big HR hitter. It wasn’t’ much of a thing until he did it. He was also a dominant pitcher before being a dominant hitter. Once players started to specialize more and talent was developed better it would be super unlikely for one dude to be the bestest at two completely different positions. Of course he was way ahead, but it was just a very different era. That’s all. It hard to make apples to apples comparisons in baseball across eras.

                And hell, you actually have listened to something Costas said so it’s easy to assume you didn’t know much. ( insert smiley face here)Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                Ruth also had the advantage of being in the right place at the right time. His rise coincided with all of the the rule changes that proceeded the death of Ray Chapman. The entire major leagues had, to some degree, to re-figure out how to pitch in a way that led to getting outs. This is not to take anything away from Ruth. He was amazing, and historically so. But his was a different era that had lots of funky things going on.

                And all of that being said, Ruth never had to face the greatest pitcher of his generation (and, many would argue, all time).Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                There is some mythologizing around the Ray Chapman incident. The spitball was already being legally phased out. It is possible that Chapman’s death accelerated this, but it was already happening.

                More generally, being at the right place at the right time is a prerequisite for this discussion. Imagine if Robinson were twenty years older, or twenty years younger.Report

              • Paige? He was 11 years younger than Ruth, which in baseball is a full generation. And if Ruth had faced him, it would have been about a half-dozen times a year, which would not have made much of a dent in his stats.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:


                If I went down to the local Little League field and joined a team, I’d probably hit a home run every at bat and strike out every hitter. I’d be playing against all the same competition as all my competitors. Would it make me the greatest player in that League’s history? Yea, I guess. Maybe? But only because everyone else who might have been better or on my league or who at least would have prevented me from being so dominant wasn’t actually playing in the league.

                Was Ruth one of the greatest players of all time? Of course. But I struggle to consider anyone who played before the game was integrated as THE greatest. Worthy competitors were BARRED from competing.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to greginak says:

                The Negro Leagues have been heavily mythologized. A few of the players were great. A somewhat larger number were very good. The bulk were guys you have never heard of, and not because they were black. All the discussions about how the majors drew from a limited population pool are much much more true of the Negro Leagues.

                All the talk we hear about the pre-integration limited pool is a valid point, but no more so than pointing out the later influx of Latin American players adding to the pool, and the even later influx of Japanese players. We are starting to see Koreans in the majors. Just imagine if baseball takes off in China. Talk about population pools to draw from!

                The point is that direct comparisons across eras don’t really work. This is obscured in baseball by a relatively stable rule set over the past 120 or so years and continual tweaking around the margins to keep the offense-defense balance steady. It superficially looks like you can compare today with Cobb’s day, but this is naive. You have to take each era on its own terms.Report

              • The dumbest version of this I’ve seen in=s in Dennis Lehane’s book The Given Day In the prologue, the train carrying the 1918 World Series teams (the Red Son and Cubs) from Chicago to Boston breaks down midway, Players from both teams go for a walk and come across a team made up of black workers from a local factory practicing in a field. They decide to play a game, and the factory workers are so superior in speed, athleticism, and hustle that the major leaguers have to cheat to win,

                Think about that: a team that wouldn’t even be the best black players from that town beats a selection of the top white players in the country.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


                Is there a difference between rules limiting the player pool and the game having not tapped into certain areas?Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kazzy says:

                Morally, yes. But for discussions like this one? No.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                All the talk we hear about the pre-integration limited pool is a valid point, but no more so than pointing out the later influx of Latin American players adding to the pool, and the even later influx of Japanese players.

                Exactly. It’d be like saying Gordie Howe wasn’t one of the greatest players ever because the Russians hadn’t showed up yet. And I agree that there are problems with drawing comparisons across eras (in today’s NHL Howe would probably be a better than average player but no superstar). But we wanna know Who’s The Greatest?! and dammit we’ll figure out a way to answer that question!Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        For pure on-field value, both in terms of peak and career, you have to drag Pele into that argument. He, of course, didn’t have much of an effect on larger culture beyond his pivotal role in “Escape to Victory”. In fact, his place in history as an ambassador for sport is kind of tainted by the fact that the NASL failed to really have a decisive impact on the US scene.

        A lot of the great moments in social progress within sport weren’t accomplished by all-time great athletes. The Black Power salute in ’68, for example. Women’s sport doesn’t have that polarizing figure – Billie Jean King would be the closest, but I don’t think she had the impact either on the court or, truth be told, off, as a Robinson or Ali.

        Jim Thorpe could have been in the conversation, but he was born 40 years too soon – when he was active it wasn’t steam-engine time yet.

        There are a lot of people who were transcendent talents and a lot who were transformative to our culture. But it seems that there were very few who were both.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to El Muneco says:

          I agree that Billie Jean King had a massive influence on popular culture. Heck, I remember tuning in to the broadcast of her playing Bobby Riggs! She and that event were a big deal.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to El Muneco says:

          you have to drag Pele into that argument

          Interesting point. I don’t know enough to judge, but my initial reaction is that this is the likeliest candidate I have yet seen in this discussion for that third slot in the “sportsman of the century” argument.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

            I think that one of the things we’re struggling with all up and down the discussion is a similar semantic issue to the one that comes up every year when the baseball “Most Valuable Player” voting comes up. I.e. does “Sportsman” imply more than just pure on-field contribution to winning? If so, how much weight do we give to off-field considerations, and what qualifies? And on the field, how to credit innovations and revolutions? And then there’s e.g. Ruth’s pitching, Thorpe’s lacrosse, and Jordan’s baseball career.

            Just nailing down the “Greatest ‘Greatest of All Time’ of All Time” is hard enough. If we allow soft considerations, then there’s the possibility that there’s a combination that would mean that the greatest Sportsman wasn’t actually the most valuable player at his sport. And that way, as we’re seeing, lies madness. However, this site is pretty good at dealing with madness, so we’ll see…Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I can’t find it on YouTube, or I’d be posting the scene from Sports Night where they all debate who was the best athlete of the 20th century. Fantastic scene.Report

        • El Muneco in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          There’s a nonzero chance that future generations will look back based on what they know in their time, and conclude that the Sports Night generation dismissed Secretariat too quickly…Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        in terms of length of career

        Eh? Ruth played n the majors from 1914 to 1935. Ali’s first professional fight was in 1960 and the last in 1981.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I actually think that the bigger knock against Ruth is general approach to the game by most players at his time.

        I’m not convinced by the “time machine” arguments. Ya know, when people say if you picked up 1920s Babe Ruth and dropped him in 2016, he’d just be a chubby slap hitter or whatever. That isn’t how it works. If Ruth grew up playing American Legion ball and with modern medicine and training and all that, he’d be an elite athlete and an amazing ball player. So I’m not sympathetic to that criticism.

        And while I generally am a believer in WAR and other similar stats, I do think they struggle evaluating players from the very early years because of how “replacement level” is determined relative to the league at the time.

        Let’s assume every athlete has a peak level they could achieve given ideal circumstances. Babe Ruth didn’t have ideal circumstances so he probably never achieved his peak. But I’d venture to guess that by sheer force of his talent and athleticism, he probably got fairly close. Let’s say he was at 80% peak. But most of the rest of the players of his time? They were probably far, far from their peak. They just didn’t invest in the game because it wasn’t a career and a profession the way it is now.

        Nowadays? Probably damn near everyone is at 100%. Now, different players have different peaks. Peak Bryce Harper is better than Peak Jayson Werth. But both are probably much closer to their peak then Ruth was in his time OR any of his competitors.

        So saying that Ruth towered above his competition doesn’t really tell us much when his competition wasn’t, well, competing all that hard (collectively).

        Obviously, this is all speculation but that is sort of all we have. My hunch is that, if Ruth was born in 1976 and was wrapping up his career this year, he’d be considered one of the greatest players ever but probably wouldn’t enter the conversation for GOAT.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kazzy says:

          One of us is confused about what is the Time Machine argument. My understanding is that it is where you take your time machine, pull him from, say, 1920, and put him in the Yankees lineup today. (Well, not today. They already beat the Orioles, against one of the O’s two good starters. He had a bad day. Tomorrow, however, is another day.) How would Ruth of 1920 do againt modern players? This is distinct from the scenario where we pull little Georgie Ruth out of the reformatory school and give him modern nutrition and training.

          But more importantly, characterizing the Ruth era as “very early” is fighting words. Sonny, Ruth’s era is what I call “modern.” If you have the same number of balls for a walk and strikes for an out as today, and the pitcher is throwing the same distance, then that is modern.

          But seriously, I have heard dead ball era guys express similar skepticism. I would have placed the end of that era as the point where such things become more trustworthy, but that is pretty much a guess. I am deeply skeptical of WAR in my era, which is to say through the mid 1880s. This is especially true for pitching, because pitchers were often limited by their catchers. Before catchers had protective equipment, having a guy who could merely catch the hardest thrown balls was a real issue, and pitchers often had to pull back to accommodate their catcher. WAR does not so much as hint at anything like this.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

            I guess I’m making two references to the Time Machine approach. The one you describe is, to me, silly. The one I refer to feels more meaningful because we are controlling for context.

            You are the historian so you’d know the eras better. I didn’t mean to imply Ruth played an early version of the sport, but rather that I don’t believe the game had “professionalized” at that point. When did it become a full-time career with year round expectations for training and preparation. Comparing guys who work with nutritionists and specialty coaches 12 months a year to guys who sold cars in the winter months feels grossly unfair.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kazzy says:

              There were guys who had winter jobs, but they weren’t players like Ruth. Recall his response when he was asked about the fact that he earned more than the President of the United States. It is also a question of “compared to what?” Even in the 1870s they were earning a hefty multiple compared with unskilled labor, and better than semiskilled. A player with decent money management skills and some business sense could use his business salary to set himself up as a small businessman. Charley Jones opened an industrial laundry in Cincinnati. If he wasn’t playing, this gave him more time to devote to his business, thereby increasing its profitability. George Wright owned a sporting goods store. My sense is that he regarded the last few years of his playing career as some combination of distraction from his serious business and marketing for it. He was fully capable of sitting out a season if the salary wasn’t right, and probably came out ahead. The real jackpot winner was Albert Spalding, who became genuinely wealthy. That being said, most players earned lower salaries, and many spent them unwisely. The stereotype is the guy who spends the winter drinking with his barfly buddies, then needs an advance on his salary to get to his team in the spring.

              Year-round training is a separate discussion. That came much later: within my lifetime. Another stereotype is of the ballplayer who arrives at spring training twenty pounds overweight. Ruth fit this stereotype. Salaries starting rising rapidly in the late 1970s. The economics explanation for year-round training is that the value of being in shape also rose. Also the available funds. Even a journeyman player can afford to hire a personal trainer and have a home gym.

              The modern-training-and-nutrition sort of comparison still has its problems. I mentioned taking Georgie Ruth out of the reformatory school. He was put there when he was seven. Which is to say, he already had six years of questionable sanitary and nutritional conditions. (Oh, and his nickname there wasn’t “Georgie.” It reportedly was “Niggerlips.” But I digress.) How far back do we go with the modern nutrition program? To put it another way, the line between natural ability and modern conditioning is not entirely straightforward.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                That is sort of what I”m getting at… Ruth was competing against a mix of professionals and guys who were essentially semi-pro. Barry Bonds competed against uber professionals. So a stat like WAR is a little slanted in favor of Ruth because the “replacement level” player of his day was relatively lower than the modern counterpart.

                Ultimately, we can’t account for everything. There is no definitive answer as to who was the best baseball player of all time. There are just too many variables. We can engage in all these fun thought exercises and have endless bar debates.

                I — personally! — think Ruth’s numbers overstate his talent because of the state of the game at that time. But at that point we’re haggling over whether he was the best player of all time or “merely” the 5th best or whatever.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kazzy says:

                If off-season training is the criterion, I would note that Ruth was among the worst offenders.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      Two additional thoughts on the “sportsman of the century” discussion. The first is the danger of presentism. Many of us grew up watching Ali fight, or at least as a constant presence in sporting culture. Ruth is someone we seen in grainy black-and-white newsreel footage eating hotdogs. This will inevitably color our perceptions. I generally take “greatest of all time” discussions in general to really be “greatest within my personal experience” discussions, but we have higher standards here, don’t we?

      Second thought: another name to throw out there is Donald Bradman. Never heard of him? Look him up. Let’s not be parochial here.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        But we also mythologize the past, often because narrative fills in the gaps.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Forgot Bradman, but I did think of Brian Lara. I don’t understand cricket statistics, it looks like Bradman was much more of a transcendent talent. Lara played in 250% more tests (at a very high, but not Bradman-like level), but my impression is that part of that is that there were more played in his era. Just like Stanley Matthews – he had less than half as many caps for England as David Beckham because there weren’t that many opportunities during the Depression and the War, but is by far the better player.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    Watching the hockey game and that insufferable moralist Bob Costas just popped up on the screen and said that Ali’s “youthful embrace of Islam was misguided.”

    WTF??? Costas really needs to get sent down. Put down. Shut down…

    Add: Shorter Costas: Ali was a great athlete and a great man. His only defect was being not quite white enough…Report

    • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

      Wow i’ve seen anything with Costas in many years. Sounds like he got real stoopid in the last decade. What a dink.Report

    • Autolukos in reply to Stillwater says:

      That sound you hear is me slamming my head repeatedly into my deskReport

    • The Nation of Islam was a pretty questionable group in those days. Ali joined in 1964 at age 22, which was the year before NoI members murdered former member Malcolm X.

      It’s not particularly far-fetched to compare the NoI’s recruitment of Ali to Scientology recruiting celebrities.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Oh, I know. And I know that’s what Costas was getting at. It’s still an irredeemably dickish thing to say, especially as expressed.Report

        • Wow, I had no idea about this until just now:

          On May 8, 2010, Farrakhan publicly announced his embrace of Dianetics and has actively encouraged Nation of Islam members to undergo auditing from the Church of Scientology. Since the announcement in 2010, the Nation of Islam has been hosting its own Dianetics courses and its own graduation ceremonies. At the third such ceremony, which was held on Saviours’ Day 2013, it was announced that nearly 8500 members of the organization had undergone Dianetics auditing. The organization announced it had graduated 1,055 auditors and had delivered 82,424 hours of auditing. The graduation ceremony was certified by the Church of Scientology, and the Nation of Islam members received certification.


      • Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Btw Mike, I completely agree with what you said up there, and if that’s the point Costas wanted to make (instead of the moralistic one he did make) he could have, and should have, said something like “Ali’s youthful embrace of Islam was controversial”, which is both accurate and non-judgmental.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    I have never been much of a boxing fan and am still not much of a boxing fan. Nor am I fan of much fighting/combat sports like UCF or Wrestling.

    But I have watched some clips of Ali boxing in my life and he seems to be the most graceful and aglile person alive.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Exactly, Saul. Then you add in the Liston 1 fight, a man no one wanted to get into the ring with because he was so devastating… and all the absolutely wonderful Clay-based theatrics surrounding that fight … and his conversion to Islam … and that his title and the best years of his career were stripped when he conscientiously objected to the draft … because the Vietcong never called him “nigger” … and his comeback against Frazier in the Fight of the Century … and the Rumble in the Jungle, which is one of the greatest athletic displays a person could ever watch (no one gets hurt. well, too bad…) … and the grace surrounding it all, in the ring and out of it….

      Ali only makes sense in the context of his times, I think. And in those times he was bigger than Jordan, Tiger and Gretzky combined.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      to have been the most graceful and agile person alive rather.Report

  4. Freeman says:

    “I ain’t got nothing against no Viet Cong; no Viet Cong never called me nigger.”

    This appears to be a common paraphrasing. I find the original quote quite powerful:

    “My conscious won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? …How can I shoot them poor people, Just take me to jail.”


  5. Stillwater says:

    He refused to be someone else’s boy.

    I was watching an old Dick Cavett show with Ali and Frazier as guests, and Ali, who was treating Frazier with just an amazing amount of personal disrespect, at one point says to Frazier something like “now you listen to me boy”. Frazier jumps up ready to fight and before things escalate further Ali laughs and says “I said Roy”. The one really dark public-persona blemish I see in Ali was his ruthless, relentless, almost sadistic mockery of Joe Frazier.Report

    • When I was a senior in high school, I got to shake Joe Frazier’s hand and had his attention for thirty seconds or so. He wasn’t all that big, but there was an enormous presence about him.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I’ve often wondered why Ali was so relentlessly abusive to Frazier, and even tho lots of people have lots of views one thing jumps out at me that I haven’t heard anyone say: Joe was the one fighter he was actually afraid of. The one guy he didn’t have a clear plan on how to beat.

        I’ve always been a big Frazier fan. I think his legacy is devalued by a presumption that Ali owned him. But that’s not the case. (Foreman owned him. 🙂Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Forgot to ask: What’d you two talk about?Report

        • When it was announced that he would fight in Omaha, our high school raised funds for one of his charities (don’t remember which one). The money went through the lettermen’s club, I was treasurer, so I got to hand him the check. He asked a question that I could answer with “Yes, many of us donated time to the charity, not just fundraising.” He said that he thought that was more important than the money.

          Like I said, I had his attention for about 30 seconds.Report

  6. Aaron David says:

    Here is a very good analysis of the Ali Foreman fight:

    • Stillwater in reply to Aaron David says:

      Damn good video. That sends chills, bro. Ali’s counter late in the 8th is something for the ages. (Obvs.)

      Permit me to play Teddy Atlas for a second: One of the underappreciated aspects of that fight is that in the early rounds (at least one and early two), Ali is incredibly aggressive, presenting a fighter who actually thinks he can take the fight to Foreman. Which is boxing suicide, yes? I think Ali very intentionally came out overly aggressive to throw Foreman off his game, get him flustered and pissed off, all the while realizing that RopeADope was gonna pay off in the end.

      Course, none of that woulda worked for an ordinary fighter, someone who couldn’t successfully play defense at a high-risk level (remember, this was right after Foreman knocked Frazier down six times in two rounds).

      Ali! That’s my favoritest fight of all time. The beauty. The grace. The strategery. The power. (Better than any of the Hearns/Hagler/Leonard combinations we got later. Which were also great fights.)Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Stillwater says:

        Yeah, there is a video somewhere that Foreman says that Ali simply outthought him. It is a thing of beauty to watch, as Foreman was no joke as a fighter, increadible power and ability. Ali just took it away from him.Report

    • Autolukos in reply to Aaron David says:

      It’s always crazy to me how fast Ali was with all his movements. It looks like he’s fighting at twice the speed of Foreman.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Autolukos says:

        I recall reading a story about the speed of Ali’s jab pre- and post- suspension. I think the metric was old-school-film frames-to-deliver-the-blow, and what was like a 12 frame jab before his forced vacation became a 14-15 frame jab after. So as fast as he was, he lost a lot of speed relative to his prime. The dude was quick. And pretty.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Autolukos says:

        For an example of his hand speed, go to 3:52 of this video.Report