The big event on ESPN this weekend is "Ali Rap," a documentary hosted by Chuck D that posits the theory that Muhammad Ali was the originator of what we think of today as "hip-hop." (That's the other half of the music they did on the "Judgment Night" soundtrack, if you're confused, rockers.) It's a flimsy argument at best — as Chuck Klosterman points out in an excellent essay on ESPN, simultaneously promoting and undermining the whole program — but we didn't think it veered toward the offensive. We're dopey that way; we always just want everyone to hug.
But the windmill tilters at No Mas have all kinds of issues with the whole premise, and they bring up some points worthy of consideration, if you're the considerate type.
And that, I guess, is what really bothers me about this whole thing - Ali as brand name, Ali as leftist icon, Ali as Righteous Black Man We Can All Agree On. Ali as the white man's black man. It makes me sick. All you have to do is watch that one episode of Wide World of Sports where Cosell and Ali watch the Ernie Terrell fight together and Cosell is basically insisting that Ali apologize, ostensibly for "acting out" in the ring, for the whole "what's my name?" incident, but really just for being an uppity black motherfucker who doesn't know his place, Cosell who we now laud as having been one of the few media supporters of Ali... check that out and tell me that the ESPN co-equivalent of the 60's didn't hate Ali's black ass and wish him no good.
We think this is particularly true: If there were an Ali equivalent today, we guarantee you the Joe Bucks of the planet would be decrying his antics left and right. Hell: Maybe there already is an Ali equivalent, and none of us will realize it for 30 years. As long as it's not Terrell Owens. That's all we ask.