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Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook that Dazed Ali and Killed King's Dream


Intellectual Fraud

Intelligent Design

Mega Fix

Ron Brown

Popes & Bankers

TWA Flight 800






In his new book, Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook That Dazed Ali and Killed King’s Dream, Jack Cashill un-tells what may be the most mis-told story of the late twentieth century, the heroic rise of boxer, Muhammad Ali. This retelling sheds bright new light on some slighted boxing greats like Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman and reveals the surprising role that Christianity has played in the sports culture.

I. True Roots

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942, grandson of a slave, began boxing at the age of twelve, and, by eighteen, had fought 108 amateur bouts.

In the very first sentence on Ali’s life in her essay, “The Cruelest Sport,” noted author Joyce Carol Oates shares with the reader one observation beyond the superficial: Ali was born the “grandson of a slave.” Oates apparently sees this as the defining fact of Ali’s existence.

More influential than Oates or anyone else in interpreting Ali to the world was sportscaster Howard Cosell. In his 1973 book, Cosell, he holds back until the second sentence of his seventy-page Ali bio before declaring, “He was a descendant of slaves.”

We all have grown so used to this shame-on-us school of storytelling that we take it for granted. Today, those who shape our culture—writers, critics, publishers, broadcasters, movie and TV producers—routinely calculate the essence of individuals, especially racial minorities, not as the sum of their blessings but rather as the sum of their grievances.

In the traditional hero saga, the individual is expected to overcome hardship and injustice. In the grievance narrative, he nurses them like grudges. If they seem inadequate to evoke guilt or anger—the two desired responses from the audience—the narrator reserves the right to embellish or even invent additional offenses.

It was not until the 1960s, with the emergence of paralyzing concepts like “structural poverty” and “institutional racism,” that this kind of narrative took root in American popular culture. The earlier postwar years were years of mounting hope. As late as 1961, for instance, Jack Newcombe dared to write a smart, upbeat biography of reigning heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson without ever mentioning Patterson’s race or that of his opponents, let alone his descent from slaves.

The heroic possibilities of the grievance narrative did not fully emerge until the latter half of the decade after the death of John Kennedy and the escalation of the war in Vietnam. As told by those who have mythologized the sixties, the youth of America rose up to throw off the shackles of racial paternalism, sexual repression, and imperial ambition. In this context, heroism was achieved not so much through individual accomplishment as through individual awareness of grievances and a collective reordering of the society.

Ali came as close to fulfilling this idea of the hero as any public figure of that era. Indeed, as seen through the looking glass of this fabled decade, his life has taken on the quality of myth.

The flame of the sixties burned brightly into the early 1970s, and it continues to illuminate much of what we read and see today. As an example, in his otherwise fair-minded 2001 biopic, Ali, director Michael Mann shows the viewer a young Ali being shepherded to the back of a segregated bus, learning of the lynching death of Emmett Till, and being casually harassed by the cops during his morning workout—and all of this just under the opening credits.

Oates follows a similar script, rejecting any number of alternate ways to introduce the young Ali. She could have informed the reader that he was the much-loved offspring of two devoted parents, Odessa Grady Clay and Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., which may explain his confidence. He had a skilled muralist for a father, a mathematician for an uncle, and a math teacher for an aunt, which may account for his creativity and instinctive smarts. As to his drive, that likely derived from his status as the first child in an ambitious African-American household.

Oates chooses instead to introduce Ali the way Malcolm X might have, not as an American, but as a victim of America, the grandson of a slave. This introduction would have made a little more sense if Ali actually were the grandson of a slave, but he is not.

Part:   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10



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