I have long been a fan of the sport of boxing. My Greatest of All Time is obviously Muhammad Ali. One other champion of note is Mike Tyson. In thinking about them, their careers and their impact on the sport and society, it occurred to me that though they both were Heavyweight champions, they had distinctly different responses after their defeats.
Of the five losses in the Ali career, I never recall him blaming the loss on anyone other than himself…never seeking to blame the opponent or undermine their credibility. Yet, with Mike Tyson, his two most compelling losses, to Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield will be forever remembered as him blaming the referee and then for losing his composure and biting the ear of Holyfield.
These comparisons are so inspiring to me as we face such challenging circumstances in America and around the world. There is certainly plenty of blame to go around as we become more aware of the disparities in the wealth of the top 1% of Americans and the remaining 99%. Yet, do we really benefit from feeling like victims…or do we now face, like Ali, that we must strengthen our resolve to regain control of our communities, city, state and federal governments?
Both Ali and Tyson were convicted of federal offenses…yet the difference in what they did after they “paid their dues to society” are as far apart as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. One went from villain to folk hero to icon, the other from feared fighter to foolish freakster to reality television clown. One taking responsibility for his actions, the other not.
As many of us rebuild our lives and seek a new sense of direction personally and collectively, it is my belief that we must be like Ali, and take the position that we are going to bounce back and regain our sense of direction and purpose again. This may require going back to school, spending our money with local businesses versus the “big box” conglomerates, and teaching our children that it is possible to wait for that “new” thing that is being marketed as a must-have-today item.
Choosing a Tyson-like response will reap only more of the self-indulgence that brings about certain doom and despair. Since we have had 30 years of this since Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics, it’s undoubtedly time for a new way to live.
And so in life as in boxing let’s do all we can to insure that at the end of the bout our glove will be raised as the ring announcer says, “And the winner is…”