when we were kings: a response

Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, in the Congo, in the 1970s. It would be nearly impossible for this to be a bad movie. Luckily for us, it’s better than good. It’s intoxicating.

What I would like to dissect a bit is the spectacle of it all, mostly because that’s the most compelling aspect. Ali’s persona is so bold, even overwhelming, and so charming. As a viewer, you cannot help but love him. When he gets riled up and yells “I’m Gonna. We Gonna. I’m Gonna!” after the match is postponed, it’s just so beautiful and so boundless. The addition of characters like James Brown and Don King to the mix make the story that much more dynamic.

“What a fighter, what a man,” George Plimpton follows. Plimpton! Norman Mailer adds in a quality anecdote that I’ll let you watch the movie to discover. (!!! Journalistic idols !!!)


That is, to me, a beautiful sentiment and a simple way of capturing what it is about these men and this fight that was so appealing. Fighting can be barbaric, and I usually don’t care much for it. But in this context, with these men, it’s amazing. Their guts, their devotion are fully on display.

The whole experience seems to have fostered a kind of intellectual revival and reinvestment in the black African experience among black Americans (and white Americans). If not a revival, then a coming-to, a re-appreciation for it. These men drop some fantastic knowledge-bombs, when they say things like “You are all alone when you become unnecessary,” and “We are coming back to Africa in splendor and scintillating glory.”

Yes, it’s about a fight, but it’s about an icon of a new black identity and a new African awareness. Ali says it best when he describes that, if he were up there alone, he would be afraid.

Instead, Ali says, he has all of the people of the Congo and Africa behind him, and his God with him. How can I be scared? Ali asks. My God controls the universe.


Laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl


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