We were all greeted with the news of Muhammad Ali's death when we woke up this morning, and the rest of the weekend we'll be hearing fulsome tributes from those who want to bask in his reflected glory.
Ali was, unquestionably, larger than life. At one point he had the most recognized face in the world, more so than any world leader at the time.
Ali was also, unquestionably, a noble warrior. His longevity as a boxer was incredible. It's amazing to think that he became an Olympic champion during the Eisenhower Presidency, then won his final title when Jimmy Carter was President.
Ali faced the hardest punchers of several generations of boxers, and never gave up. But in the end, his victories were Pyrrhic, as he spent the last 30 years of his life essentially punch drunk. He beat Foreman with his much vaunted "Rope a dope" strategy, but eventually he was the one it turned into a dope. We can blame his Parkinson's on Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, and George Foreman.
It seemed all the more a shame because when Ali was young he was quick-witted and playful and humorous and charming.
Ali, born in 1942, spent his early youth in the era of segregation, and his politics, an outgrowth of that, were an entirely different matter from what the BLM crowd is pushing now.
Back then, civil rights were about desegregating lunch counters and swimming pools, and gaining admission to college if they were qualified. Today, it's all about pretending that black people are in more danger from whites than whites are from blacks. Or about pretending that if blacks don't do as well on the SAT's it must be because of "racism," that amorphous evil that magically accounts for all racial differences.
So it's easier to be sympathetic to Ali than to the current crop of protesters.
Still, it's as silly to pay attention to the political opinions of athletes as it is to pay heed to those of movie stars. And a lot of the things that Ali stood for didn't bear close scrutiny. He was, as I pointed out here, sort of a segregationist.
He claimed to be a pacifist, a seemingly hypocritical stance for someone who beat people up for a living.
And he famously said, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me nigger." (True enough, but that was mainly because the Vietnamese were unfamiliar with blacks. It's been well documented since then that the Vietnamese treated the offspring of black GI's and Vietnamese women even more harshly than they did the half white Amerasians.)
But don't expect any close scrutiny this weekend. Expect a lot of maudlin tributes. And expect the usual suspects to try to grab some of his glory for themselves. Jesse Jackson will undoubtedly show up at his funeral next week, try to act as master of ceremonies, and in general hog the limelight as much as he can (especially if Obama doesn't show up). Al Sharpton will undoubtedly attend as well, looking appropriately somber.
Obama may or may not attend the funeral, but will undoubtedly release a carefully crafted statement -- written by his speechwriters -- about what a great hero Ali was and subtly expressing solidarity with Ali's political stances while simultaneously sanitizing those stances.
White liberals everywhere will spout about how much they loved Ali, and how wonderful he was, using the occasion to boost their non-racist credentials.
And newscasters, most of whom will be too young to remember, will reminisce about how incredible it was when Ali beat Foreman.
My advice: turn off the TV.