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History for dummies

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  February 26, 2010 05:14 PM

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An ESPN chat broke out today, and the eventual return to competitive golf of Tiger Woods was discussed. And, as a result, Clio, Muse Of History, gulps 15 'ludes with a fifth of Virginia Gentleman, ties an anvil to her neck, and hurls herself into the Aegean Sea.

Eddie (Fort Worth)

Is Tiger ever going to be the same golfer?

Bill Simmons
  (1:16 PM)

To me, that's a much bigger question than "Where is LeBron going?" Tiger's comeback is going to be the most fascinating running sports story of my lifetime. I really believe that. We only get a handful of truly transcendent athletes per lifetime, he's one of them, and yet, none of them have ever been tested this way.

The only thing that comes close: When Ali returned from 4 years of boxing exile for refusing to serve in Vietnam.

(A commenter, who is apparently older than 12,  is quizzical.)

"Really Bill? Ali coming back to win the title after being banned from the sport for religious convictions that prevented him from serving in a war that continues to effect the course of American history today, "comes close" to Tiger missing 5 months for a cavalcade of bimbos and a staged sex rehab?


(Which is followed by this, in which actual history has its viscera removed with a melon-baller.)

"S: Here's the big difference though: Everyone was rooting for Ali. He never came even 10% close to facing the scrutiny, vitriol and 24/7 news cycle microscope that Tiger will face."

"Everyone" was rooting for Ali? The FBI certainly wasn't. Federal prosecutors certainly weren't. For that matter, the federal government in toto wasn't too fond of him. Various factions of the Nation Of Islam were dubious at best. He was virtually broke. Half the country thought he should be doing roadwork in a cellblock at Leavenworth because he was a draft dodger, and too many people thought he should have been locked up simply for being a black man who was ungrateful for the blessings of white America. As some of you may recall, the Vietnam War and its attendant traumas were a fairly divisive period in our history, and were well beyond the moment when the helicopters lifted off from the roof of the embassy.

(And, later, he's still digging. Notice how the goalposts have begun to move.)

S: You don't know your Ali history. it's true that White America was against him in the mid-60's, but that shifted as America turned against Vietnam. By the time of the Ali-Frazier fight, Frazier was the "old guard" rep and Ali was the "new guard" rep. He had everyone under 35 rooting for him.

We are now up to "everyone under 35," which is also not true, and is completely irrelevant to the original discussion.  Having the support of a bunch of young lefties is comforting, but it doesn't make up for losing your livelihood and having the Feds on your case, even if popular support generally for the war has crumbled, and it certainly isn't equivalent to being embarrassed by tabloid television while you stalk the halls of your mansion, waiting to go out and swing a golf club again. There is a profound difference between being a potential punchline and being an potential inmate. And ambivalence about Ali survived the end of the war. If it hadn't, Sylvester Stallone never would have had a movie career.

This isn't hard. This not stuff you have to have lived through. This is stuff you can find out by, you know, reading, which is said to be fundamental. Let us be kind and suggest that young Bill perhaps is unread on the subject of The Sixties, possibly because The Karate Kid was not set in that era.

And, not for nothing, but "cavalcade of bimbos" deserves a shout.


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