Tracy K. Lorenz ...


I feel sorry for ESPN. If you’re a 24 hour sports channel and there are no sports then the pickin’s get a little slim. If you’re a guy who spent A LOT of his time watching sports then the pickin’s are even slimmer.

I mention this because ESPN has been showing old boxing matches, including some of Mohammed Ali’s biggest fights, and I gotta say, I don’t see how everyone claims Ali was “The Greatest.” I watched him fight Joe Frazier twice (The Thrilla in Manilla and some other fight at Madison Square Garden) and if I was a judge I would have given both fights to Frazier and it

wasn’t even close.  Ali’s basic strategy was to take a million punches, flick a couple jabs, and then finish with a little flurry at the end of each round.  I never saw him step into a punch he was throwing, he just sort of pecked away and then the judges gave him the decision.

In my humble opinion, Mike Tyson would have knocked Ali out in under thirty seconds.

What today’s kids don’t realize is these fights used to be shown live on regular ol’ TV. These huge, legendary, almost mythical fights would be on prime time network TV for free, there was no pay-per-view. Can you even imagine UFC 227 or Wrestlemania being on for free now?  It would never happen.

But my favorite of the old time “Free” events was when Evel Knievel tried to kill himself a couple times a year.

Nowadays when it shows some live daredevil you know nothing is going to happen. They probably have the thing on at least an eight second tape delay, oh, and these new guys aren’t idiots. The beauty of watching Evel was you knew there was a 50/50 chance he was going to bite it.

For one thing, he wasn’t jumping a bunch of busses with a specialy modified Motocross bike, he was on the world’s heaviest Harley Davidson. I think it even had saddle bags and presumably the saddle bags were full of neck braces and ringers lactate.

I’m pretty sure Evel’s crew didn’t do any math, I don’t think things like speed and gravity were taken into account, they just sort of eyeballed it like, “Okay, put a ramp here ... and put another ramp there ... no, a little more to the left ... that’s good,” and next thing you know Evel is bouncing across a parking lot like a Barbie Doll shot out of a lawnmower.

Remember that study in spinal compression when Evel tried to jump the fountain at Caesar’s Palace? From what I read the ramps weren’t exactly lined up with each other so when Evel launched from the first ramp he noticed that the second ramp wasn’t where it was supposed to be and it was really hard to steer once he was in the air. Couple that with the fact he had about ten feet to stop on the fat chance that he did make it and you have a recipe for good TV.

But what these guys, Ali and Kneivel, had was showmanship. They weren’t just slugs out there trying to make a buck, their performances weren’t just “sports” they were events. Knievel’s handlebar streamers had more personality than Shaquille O’Neal and James Harden combined.

So when someone refers to Ali as “The Greatest” maybe that’s what they’re talking about, his great showmanship, because he sure wasn’t the greatest fighter. And if someone calls Knievel the world's greatest daredevil what they really mean is he was the world’s WORST daredevil and the space between those two statements isn’t that big of a ... leap.

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