Bold Fortune

fortune favors the bold

Month: November, 2011

The nature of heroism, part the second.

by mollykl

‎”Life doesn’t run away from nobody. Life runs at people.” Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier died this week at the age of 67.  The news has been full of remembrances and it’s been interesting to listen and match what is being said with what I remember. Now, I’m not really a boxing girl. I first remember paying attention to the sport watching the 1984 Olympics in an abandoned house in Brussels that we’d commandeered for the evening with a tv and some beer. We watched boxing and I thought, “Hey this isn’t just some brutal fight, this is actually a sport. There’s an art to this.”  And when you think of “art” when you think boxing, Joe Frazier doesn’t come to mind, Mohamed Ali does. And what a story there, folks.

Not being a boxing girl, I’d never really realized the animosity between the two. Oh yeah, you watch pre-fight interviews of any fight match and there’s the usual trash-talking. That’s the norm at this point, isn’t it? But Ali took it a step further. He brought race into it.  He called Frazier “Uncle Tom.” He called him “a gorilla”. If that happened nowadays he’d be forced to apologize on national tv and then go to rehab (because apparently that’s what you do when you screw up royally in the media).  And it worked: it made the public sit up and notice, and it made the fight a spectacle. It was what Ali did, and God knows, he did it well. The man knew how to publicize before it was a real industry.

We forget that. We forget that Ali was willing to use a racial slur against another black man to promote a fight. We forget because he’s Mohamed Ali – he’s our hero and that doesn’t go with our version of what a hero does.

This is not where I say it’s an “American” thing, because I think this happens the world over. It’s a “human” thing. Why do we close our eyes to the horrible things the people we admire do? Why do we conveniently forget that Ali made racial comments about an opponent just to publicize a fight? Why do we forget that Coco Chanel collaborated with the Germans? Is it because we want to believe that those we look up to are better than us? Or is it because we demand such utter perfection from them that we cannot abide the slightest human imperfection?

Joe Frazier felt betrayed by Ali’s comments, back when their fight was heating up. He felt betrayed because he admired Ali – admired his fighting, but more importantly, admired his stance on the Vietnam war. Ali said more than a mouthful when he said, “”I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong”, refused his induction and was promptly banned from boxing for three years.

Frazier was short and somewhat squat and solid and so brutal that he once broke one of his sparing partners ribs. He fought. That was his job and he did it. He was a different style than Ali, and that’s just what it is. The only two men to ever beat Joe Frazier were Mohamed Ali and George Foreman.

Our heroes inspire us. They make us want to be better, to follow in their footsteps or just to get through the day. We do that best when we remember that they are human and fallible, like us. They are not a separate species. They are us.

“They told me Joe Frazier was through,” Ali told Frazier at one point during the fight.

“They lied,” Frazier said, before hitting Ali with a left hook.

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So what’s your definition of success?

by mollykl

Oy. What a week. Due to a family emergency I was in charge this week. Since being “in charge” is what I’ve wanted (albeit not in these circumstances!) I knew I could handle it, did my job, and worried about my boss. Despite a few bumps in the road (woo-hoo! had to make 200 tags on ad day!) everything went well. I proved to myself that I could in fact do the job.

On tuesday NaNoWrimo started. The night before I was supposed to start writing 50,00 words I decided that the story I’d wanted to work on, the story that I spent the last 6 months researching, the story that I’ve been plotting out and outlining, was…stupid. And I needed to come up with something different. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, husband J and I went out to dinner and I told him my ideas and the look on his face pretty much told me that I was off in a land where people just didn’t visit. So I thought I’d better start over.

But on tuesday I sat down at the computer and just started writing. The first sentence and then the second and then the third and I realized that, damn!, this is an amazing story, and I’m going to be the one to write it.

On thursday I had to work in son J’s class. I was terrified. I don’t do well with children. For one thing I’m always worried that I’ll swear, or say, “Oh for god’s sake act like an adult.” I’ve been stressing out over this ever since I filled out the volunteer form. It went great! I had a lot of fun and I think they did too. And hanging out with the class I realized that son J, while having problems, is just having normal 5 year old boy problems. I’m not the awful parent I thought I was, in fact, I kind of rock (just a little).

Today as I was leaving I noticed a co-worker training in another department. I went up to him and said, “Please tell me they didn’t suck you in!” And then I threw an arm around his trainer, a guy I’ve actually threatened to kill on occasion for messing up his tags, and said, “Whatever you do, DON’T listen to him. You want to know about your tags, come talk to me.”  I  laughed and started teasing both them.

Then the miraculous happened. My co-worker smiled and then laughed. I haven’t seen him smile, at all, since a family member of his was in a horrible accident, which is understandable. Every day I say “hi” and smile and just try to be nice, not knowing what else to do. Today he smiled and laughed.

And that’s my definition of success. That’s what I’m proudest of this week, that I made someone smile.