Rope a dope…


Ah yes, another sick day. Actually, it was just a half a sick day. I hauled my carcass into work this morning and convinced myself I felt fine. Ha. It is to laugh. *cough*

That’s the bad news. The good news is that being home sick this afternoon gave me the chance to finally watch When We Were Kings, the documentary about the Ali vs. Foreman championship fight in Zaire in 1974.

When I was a kid I thought Ali was some kind of god. I suppose lots of people my age, and probably older, did. He was an amazing boxer. I hate boxing. I’ve never been able to stand watching anyone else fight, but Ali was magnificent. Very few people have mastered boxing with their minds, but even as a kid I could tell that was what he was up to. Charles Taylor’s column for Salon, written as a film review after the movie came out on video, sums it up better than I could.

The Rumble In The Jungle was a classic example. George Foreman was a monster. He had a ridiculously long reach and was just damned huge. In the film they show him training with the heavy punching bag and after he was done with it there’d be this huge dent in the side of the bag where he’d been hitting it. If you’ve ever punched a bag you’ll get the idea of just how hard someone would have to hit one of those things and leave a dent. All the oddsmakers and boxing experts said Ali was going to get killed.

And all along everyone figured they knew what Ali’s strategy would be, mainly because he advertised it loudly every chance he got – he was going to dance around the ring and not let Foreman hit him. Foreman even trained specifically to defeat this strategy, by sparring with faster opponents and learning to corner a quick-footed opponent. But in the end, Ali didn’t dance around and avoid Foreman’s punches. He let Foreman take him to the ropes and basically knock himself out with exhaustion. They called that technique the rope-a-dope.

In the end, once Foreman was worn down enough Ali lept out of his cage and knocked him on his ass. Foreman fell hard, like the biggest tree in the forest being cut down.

As I watched this unfold in When We Were Kings I started to think. The war in Iraq looks an awful lot like a rope-a-dope. The US military is bigger, stronger and more heavily armed, but the enemy seems to be able to take a beating over and over and over again and come back for more, just like Ali.


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