January 30, 2007

Rewritting Ali's history: Better late than never: Is the legend surrounding Muhammad Ali being wilfully distorted by the Establishment?

In the eyes of a new generation, he is a Gandhi-esque caricature: non-controversial, utterly non-threatening and devoid of the contradictions that symbolised the deep divisions in postwar American consciousness.

posted by Fence to boxing at 07:44 AM - 15 comments

I don't see it. I mean, I get the author's point, but to me the real polish job has been done to Ali's personality. Gone are the references to how he treated people like Sonny Liston and George Forman, denigrating them as Uncle Tom's for the simple crime of stepping inside the ring. The author seems no less intent on using the broken frame of a great champion as a stand-in for the author's beliefs. Is it really cynical manipulation to celebrate Ali's high points now? How much effort should we put into pulling apart a guy who looks on the verge of death in every public opinion?

posted by yerfatma at 08:00 AM on January 30, 2007

Gandhi wasn't universally revered during his time either or else he wouldn't have been assassinated. The same goes for JFK, MLK, our Founding Fathers, etc. At some point looking back, you just have to measure people by taking a step back. No one was good in every aspect of their life, but taken as a whole, are they worth revering?

posted by bperk at 08:50 AM on January 30, 2007

I'm sort of troubled that making more Ali more complex and true-to-life is seen as 'pulling apart' someone, or the assumption that somehow someone who is more complex would not be worth revering. Gandhi was worth revering because he was controversial and confrontational. The article's goal is to rebuild and respect the real Ali, not to 'pull apart' or disrespect the pallid shadow he has become.

posted by tieguy at 02:27 PM on January 30, 2007

Who can tell how a new generation of black Americans would have reacted to his historical legacy had it not been drowned in a torrent of mushy and historically misleading sentimentality? WTF? I think it's funny when I see someone write about something they really don't care about.

posted by Bishop at 02:44 PM on January 30, 2007

Ah, God bless him - he's a muckraker that a cat can really get behind. I agree with yerfatma, it's the nastier side of him that seems to have been glossed over during the past few decades. I like to think of him better as a fierce, uncompromising iconoclast who you loved or hated. The reverence is just a tad too simplified and dishonest... Like Barbaro! Man, is there anything about life that horse can't teach us?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:51 PM on January 30, 2007

These of us old enough remember Ali as the greatest boxer of the time. We also remember the controversy that swirled about him for years;his bragging, the name change,the draft,his women,the Spinks bouts,etc. The list goes on and on.It seemed as if he enjoyed being outrageous.To many in the Jim Crow 60s he was outrageous.Much of that is being swept under the carpet.To me he was the greatest athlete in my lifetime and a great and courageous of the common man.

posted by sickleguy at 03:44 PM on January 30, 2007

com'on if they can rehabilitate Nixon's image they can gloss over some of Ali's life.

posted by lindomotorsports at 04:52 PM on January 30, 2007

You don't get to be The Greatest by being a saint.

posted by carolinared at 05:39 PM on January 30, 2007

I guess that he has mellowed with age, I know that I have and I look at things differently. He was a couragous man who stood up for what he believed and in the end, he made a difference! I don't suppose that my favorite (Joe frazier) agrees with me. Those two fought the greatest fights in my life time!

posted by steelerchooks at 07:20 PM on January 30, 2007

You mean they're glossing over his anti-Vietnam War stance?

posted by kirkaracha at 07:43 PM on January 30, 2007

Champ was what he was...didn't take the BS for 'nam, played the media like a well tuned viola and, until the body started south, simply kicked ass and took no prisoners. Let's not play him for anything he wasn't. Even now, he's a LOT sharper than most...

posted by wolfdad at 08:42 PM on January 30, 2007

In a way it is a nothing article; basically saying that people are a lot more complex than hero-worship would have us believe. So why did I post the link? Cause it is true that a lot of articles written about Ali have him as the hero not the man. I'm all for Ali the hero, a lot of what he did was great, but you gotta take the good with the bad :)

posted by Fence at 02:54 AM on January 31, 2007

You gotta take the good with the bad in everything and everyone but Ali was exactly who he said he was...THE GREATEST!! I am not from the era when Ali was just kicking ass and taking the government head on, but from everything that's been said & done about him, he was basically just a man that wasn't ever going to be submissive and take crap from anyone. Ali never claimed to be nothing more than the greatest champion of all time and he was right.

posted by BornIcon at 07:17 AM on January 31, 2007

com'on if they can rehabilitate Nixon's image they can gloss over some of Ali's life. One big difference--Ali wasn't a common burglar.

posted by jm_mosier at 08:21 AM on January 31, 2007

I'll bet that Ali became more preferable to his establishment opponents once they got a look at Leon Spinks.

posted by Newbie Walker at 11:25 PM on February 02, 2007

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