SI Vault
December 22, 1969
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 22, 1969


View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


As the rest of the world spun in relative sanity toward Christmas, the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship fight hopscotched through another world, one of political indignation and public scorn. It touched down briefly at such spots as Orlando and Tampa, South Miami and Toronto and, for the moment at least, appears to have found a resting place in Judge Roy Hofheinz' piece of Texas, the Houston Astrodome. At least it was still to be in Texas when we went to press, if not yet announced officially, and Ali was optimistic enough to render a poem, and, yes, even a prediction—Frazier to fall in 11.

After signing his part of the contract last week—Frazier wasn't to sign until this past Tuesday—Ali then retired to his hotel in New York City to reflect upon the injustice, to him, of having to fight with no more than a few weeks of training and to wax eloquent in dismay over the great mounds of fat that have gathered about his body. He is, by his estimate, carrying 232 pounds, although 240 or 245 might be a more accurate guess.

"If Frazier beats me," said Ali, who has not fought since March 1967, when he unloaded on Zora Folley in seven rounds, "it's still not fair. I won't have time to be me. This won't be me—and if he wins it really can't go down as my best. However I look in this fight—and I'm not saying I'm going to lose—I won't feel bad. But I believe I have enough speed and experience to beat him."

Then the champion brightened. He got to his feet and began to cuff the air, hooks and jabs and crosses, almost flooring a maid who escaped by stumbling over a photographer, and he began to recite:

Frazier will conic out smokin',
But I ain't gonna be jokin',
I'll be a peckin' and a pokin',
Pouring water on his smokin',
It might shock ya and amaze ya,
To see the destruction of Fraz-a.

Then, laughing, he began to pack. "I only got to February 16," he said, "so I got to hurry to the gym and start dancing. He's a snapping turtle and I got to start building a turtle trap."


President Nixon's interest in football has been ascribed by pundits to a need to get away, occasionally, from the uncertainties of politics to the clear-cut precision of sports, where you can measure your gains and losses, recognize at once the import of your penalties and advances and know whether you have won or lost.

An athlete of our acquaintance who has been dabbling in politics and is thinking seriously of making it his career sees the question from the opposite end of the bench. He looks upon politics as a simple, carefree life compared to big-time football. For instance, starting at the very beginning there is no need for vigorous recruiting of new players or for paying big bonuses to rookies; politics is always overloaded with newcomers who are not only willing but insatiably eager to fight for a spot in the lineup. They'll even pay for the privilege. And instead of tedious hours of work on the practice field to perfect every detail of an intricate play, in politics one can pull off a matter of tremendous import with a casual conversation or two and a quick phone call. Politics, in other words, is easier to play. The lack of clear-cut rules enhances the fun. In football if you block an opponent from behind you're zapped with a crushing penalty that can nullify a hard-earned score; in politics clipping an opponent from behind is applauded, if it works. You can pass a Christmas pie-in-the-sky tax-relief bill, knowing that it's going to end up incomplete, and all you get are cheers from your constituents for a nice try; on the gridiron you'd be penalized 15 yards for deliberately grounding the ball.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5