A legend leaves and a deadline approaches
Where do we rank Joe Frazier, rest his soul, in the pantheon of sports figures in our era, since many of us seem to be of the same era?
There can be no question about his athletic skill, he was a relentless competitor, a man driven to dominate boxing when boxing matter, the kind of never-take-a-step-back fighter to be admired for his will, skill and heart.
Those fights with Muhammad Ali, back when big-time fights truly mattered to the sports fan, were undeniably classics, moments to be cherished now that the sport has pretty much dropped off the face of the Earth.
The Fight Of The Century was, indeed, the Fight Of The Century, the Thrilla in Manilla was, indeed, a thriller.
They lived up to the hype, moments of true sporting greatness and that is not often the case. It was a far simpler time back then, no over-blown lead-up to monumental sporting events, we let them unfold as much in our imagination than through the breathless analysis of so-called experts. We were able to form our own opinions by watching and reading, not by being inundated with the 24-hour news cycle.
But more than that, more than for his athletic prowess, Frazier filled a role that was perfect for his time.
He was the perfect foil for Ali, who treated him poorly at times, of that there can be no question. He seethed at the treatment he got and it fuelled him and turned him into the fighter he was in those memorable bouts.
Ali was the more famous, the more controversial, by far the more colourful of the two men. But one, I don’t think, could have truly existed without the other; they needed the opposite personality to drive them, to drive their sport, to make them what they were.
There was a coming together late in their lives, Ali and Frazier may not have become the greatest of friends but there were appearances together and, you got the feeling, a realization of what each meant to the other back when they ruled the sports world.
Of all the “rivalries” that we hear about, all the mano-a-mano crap we’re dealt about athletes who are more friends than competitors, we’ll never live another Ali-Frazier.
So having read almost all the dispatches, there is a group of owners who hope the players turn down the 50-50 split because they want to go back to 47 with a hard cap and all kinds of draconian measures and a group who want to play.
And you have a group of players who want to decertify the union and send this all to the courts and a group who would take it in a heartbeat and get on with their careers.
Sounds like a deal to me.
Everybody holds their noses, the thing gets signed and life goes on.
One thing I do think it is that Wednesday is not the drop-dead day and even if there is no resolution by Stern’s end-of-business deadline, I certainly don’t expect any announcement that the full season has been cancelled.
There would appear to remain some wiggle room on both sides which means more breathless talks, more, well, more yawning.
I’ve been trying to get at this one for some time now and haven’t ever quite done it.
We agree some (most?) of us are Of A Certain Vintage and we don’t mind at all to relive the days gone by.
So, this debate raged.
It’s the early 70s, there’s that special someone at the dance, you know who he or she was, right? Which of these was best?
I know, tough to pick, no?
So which one and why?
Know what I did last night?
Watched a Monday Night Football game, almost start to finish. There may have been a half-hour nap thrown in there but other than that, start to finish for the first time this year.
Great game, actually but one thing stuck:
Man, does Jon Gruden ever talk a lot. Wow!
Not sure if that was a particular verbose performance or not but he certainly is chatty.
Speaking of Joe Frazier, there wasn’t much memorable about the 2002 NBA all-star game in Philly.
Traffic gridlock downtown, I seem to recall Vince didn’t play because his knee was sore and that became one of the most overblown stories of his tenure and about the best thing was trying to find a restaurant near the hotel to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with The First Lady Of The Beat and My Man Sheridan.
Oh, wait, there was one thing.
These two guys were hanging out; best scene of the weekend.
Michelle B. in Toronto writes to ask:
Q: Hi Doug. With all this talk of a mandatory players rep meeting in NY Tuesday, who is the Raptors rep? I believe it use to be Julian, but since he is a free agent, I’d imagine it would have to be a player under contract.
Not sure if it absolutely has to be a player under contract – it would make sense but I haven’t seen the union bylaws – but the best information I have from the players association and a couple of other folks is that Jerryd Bayless has taken over that gig from Julian, who took it over from Jarrett Jack, if my memory is correct.
The thing with the Raptors is that I don’t see a lot of militancy among the players and I’d imagine most of ‘em would take 50-50 and get on with their careers. I could be wrong but that seems to be the collective personality.
You’ve got almost half the team in their native lands (Barbosa, Brazil; Calderon, Spain; Bargnani, Italy; Kleiza, Lithuania; Valanciunas doesn’t count) and the rest strike me as guys who truly just want to play and won’t sweat the minutia of a contract too, too much.