Category Archives: Boxing

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.” — Mary Wollstonecraft

SELF-DEFENSE

There is only one Tyler Ferguson on this Earth — which either is or isn’t a boon for the planet.

Tyler (AKA The Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls‘ Kaka Caliente)

She is Bloomington’s own, though, and she graced the Boys of Soma with her presence this morning. She was wrapping her fluid-swollen right knee as the rest of us were ingesting our first doses of the precious eye-opening substance.

Tough Guy Mac asked her how she injured her knee. Those in the know are aware it could have happened during a roller derby match, a soccer game, from running or spinning or bicycling, or any of the countless physical activities she’s addicted to.

Tyler And Her Late, Lamented Wheels

Now, when you ask Tyler a question, you’re really asking for a lecture that includes a minimum of a half dozen tangents. It reminds me of the old line: ask her what time it is and she’ll tell you how a watch is made.

Anyway, she explicated a history of the hinge’s traumas and insults until finally, someone (oh, alright, me) suggested she may have kneed an unfortunate soul who’d tried to force his attentions on her and if you think her patella looks bad, you oughtta see various parts of his shattered body.

Which automatically reminded Tyler of a story. Aw, hell, lemme let her tell it:

“Oh my god! (many Tyler stories begin with oh my god!) I took a self-defense course, five years ago, I think.

“They taught us this move, it’s called the buck and roll. It’s for when some guy’s trying to molest you and he’s on top of you, y’know?

“You grab the guy by the lapels, pull him real close, raise your hips for leverage, okay? It’s a last resort type of thing.

“Then, you use your leverage and flip him. It’s very effective for a smaller person who has a larger person, y’know, like a rapist, on top of them.

“I couldn’t wait ’till I got home, I wanted to show Fergie (her husband). So I get home and I say, ‘Dave. Lemme show you this move I just learned. It’s great!’

“And he goes, ‘Uh uh. No way.’

“And I say, ‘Aw, c’mon! How can it hurt. Look, lay on top of me like you wanna rape me, okay? Don’t worry.’

“So he gets on top of me, I pull him by the lapels, buck my hips up into him, and give him the flip.

“Oh my god, this is true! He must have flown ten feet in the air. Honestly, he was airborne.

“He hit a dresser and he got this enormous bruise on his hip (here, she stands and shows us with her hands the extent of the bruise — it spanned from his waist to halfway down his thigh.) And then all the blood drained down to his foot and he couldn’t walk.

“Poor Punky! He wouldn’t let me touch him for, oh, I don’t know how long.”

To prove Tyler Ferguson isn’t the only one around here who can spin a yarn, her story reminds me of the time I did a big story for the Chicago Reader about the first women boxers in the nation to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament.

One of the boxers, a DePaul University senior named Tracy Desmond, had studied karate before taking up boxing. One night, late, she was walking home in her Little Italy neighborhood when a man who’d been following her yanked her into a gangway.

He picked the wrong chick to mess with. Tracy fought him off, generously bestowing a number of bruises upon his person, and dashed away, seeking refuge in a neighbor’s home.

Tracy Desmond Clocks A Golden Gloves Opponent

When I first heard Tracy’s story it immediately hit me: why don’t we teach young girls self-defense beginning in their earliest years in elementary school?

I don’t have kids (the world should thank me for that) but I can imagine the horror of learning my daughter had been injured or worse by one of the cousins of pan troglodytes who prowl the streets.

Teaching girls from the earliest age the effectiveness of popping a predator in his nose, throat, or junk seems to me the least we can do for them.

Or is it that we really want the females of our holy land to remain helpless?

Teach Your Daughters

IF YOU TELL IT, THEY WILL LISTEN

Laura Grover can hold her own with any raconteur. The boss of WFHB’s Bloomington Storytelling Project also showed up this morning at Soma. She’d scheduled a meeting with a person who wanted to record a story for the BSP‘s big February event — its 29 Stories in 29 Days storytelling drive.

Grover

“If you email us and make a pledge to tell your story any time this month at any location you want, we’ll record you and put your story on the air,” Grover explained. “The first 29 people to do it will get a free mug and an Acoustic Harvest CD. Everybody who participates will get a chance to win prizes from local businesses.”

Those who want to share their stories with the world (or at least Bloomington’s corner of it) can contract Laura Grover at storytelling@wfhb.org.

GLORIA

Strong woman, strong music. Pound for pound, Patti Smith is tougher than any heavyweight boxer.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world.” — Grace Paley

COURAGE

One of the most overused terms in sports is courage. A guy hits a single in the bottom of the ninth to win a baseball game for his team and the announcers gasp and coo that’s he’s exhibited an uncommon amount of courage.

Or the plucky college basketball team beats the number one team in the nation which, as we all know, happened a little more than a month ago right here in Bloomington. Sure enough, the announcers and the next day’s sports columnists all agreed: that plucky team was very courageous.

I call bullshit.

Courage?

There was only one truly courageous professional athlete I’ve ever seen. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, 70 years ago today.

We know him as Muhammad Ali.

I’ve never given a damn about professional boxing. It’s a cruel sport. It’s nothing more than sanctioned assault and battery performed for the pleasure of the slobs who pay to watch.

Men batter each others’ brains into mush so promoters and TV execs can make millions.

You can have it.

But I was always a fan of Muhammad Ali. He was the first jock to understand that what he was doing, first and foremost, was entertaining.

“Float like a butterfly,” he said, “sting like a bee.”

Poetry.

“I am the greatest,” he proclaimed. “I said that even before I knew I was.”

Comedy.

“I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me,” he said.

Brilliant.

Muhammad Ali was strong. Muhammad Ali spent months training for a fight. Muhammad Ali endured blows that would disable or kill you and me. Muhammad Ali beat up dozens of men in the ring.

But nothing he did was courageous until he started looking at the question of black and white in America.

“Boxing,” he said, “is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.”

No social commentator has ever uttered or typed a line with such clarity and perspicacity on the topic of race in America.

When he first became boxing’s champion, he had reached the pinnacle of all that a black man could achieve in this holy land. He knew it wasn’t enough.

“I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell,” he said, “but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.”

Still going by the name Clay, he and Martin Luther King, Jr. were the most famous black men in the world. He was wealthy. What man would jeopardize that?

He did. Racism in America so disgusted him that he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964. He changed his name to Ali.

Ali With Malcolm X

All those white men watching him beat up another black men weren’t going to like that one bit. Muhammad Ali instantly became the man they loved to hate.

What professional athlete today would put at risk even one commercial shoot to breathe a word about freedom or race or poverty?

Muhammad Ali had work to do — work much more important than mashing the brains of another black man for the amusement of white men.

America’s Vietnam War was disposing of thousands of human beings a week. It was fought, disproportionately, by America’s blacks.

In 1966, when Ali was classified 1-A by the Selective Service System, he opted for courage.

He was ordered to report to the Army’s induction center in Houston in April, 1967. When the induction officer called his name, Ali refused to respond.

He could have run to Canada, as many young men were doing back then. He could have joined the National Guard, as many pro athletes were doing at the time as well. Joining the National Guard was a way of avoiding service in the regular Army and, consequently, being sent to Southeast Asia.

He’d chosen neither of those ways out.

Three times the induction officer called his name. Three times he stood tall and silent. Finally the officer warned him that refusing to respond was a felony punishable by five years in prison.

Ali remained mum.

He would say later, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. They never called me nigger.”

Which, by the way, was now the preferred appellation for him among so many of those white men who formerly enjoyed watching him beat up another black man.

Ali was immediately arrested and charged. He was found guilty by a jury two months later. He’d been stripped of his championship title by boxing’s regulating authorities the day he was arrested.

Ali Photographed By Gordon Parks During His Exile From Boxing

He gave up his career and his freedom and put his fortune at risk, all for something he believed in.

Something he believed in.

Which sports celebrity today believes in anything?

Which American today would risk a nickel on something he or she believes in?

It all turned out well for Muhammad Ali, of course. His conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court. He was allowed to compete for the heavywieght title again and he won it back.

In his doddering years, he has become this nation’s kindly, lovable grandpa. When he dies, politicians and wags will fall all over each other trying to be the first to say what a great man he was.

But on April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali had no idea that would happen.

He only knew his public opposition to the Vietnam War was worth risking everything he had.

That was courage.

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