Sporting Bodies

Authored by: Davis W. Houck

Handbook of Sports and Media

Print publication date:  April  2006
Online publication date:  March  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805851885
eBook ISBN: 9780203873670
Adobe ISBN: 9781135257347


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In a chapter about sport and bodies, it seems appropriate that Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay, the Louisville Lip, gets pride of place. Even though Fleming never names the boxer weaving between the liminal spheres of living and dying, the title gives it away: If nothing else, Don King had a thing for marketing and rhymes (and memorably bad hair). This was Ali at his greatest—after the unlikely knockout of Sonny Liston in Miami and his "ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong," but before the punch-drunk caricature of Spinks-Holmes-Berbick. It was an athlete pushed beyond anything previously experienced into an inarticulate and mute place. Sadly, that is the space where Ali now resides. The impassive face and the tremors function as nostalgic reminders of the loquacious poet, "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."1 But to those of us who grew up watching The Champ (and Howard Cosell), today's visage of Ali functions also as an indictment: Who was consuming the spectacle? Who was putting Ali back in the ring when he should've been counting his millions? Why do we wince when we look at Ali? Are we catching a reflection?

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