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Lampley Bids Adieu To Ali

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Closing Commentary
Jim Lampley
HBO The Fight Game
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

“If you’ve watched The Fight Game you know the format calls for a closing comment. It’s a challenge. How do you sign off on what feels like an infinite subject? We come back to the metaphor that is the foundation of this show: the reality that for all of us, in some way or another, life is a fight. Other sports complicate the metaphor with elaborate rules, conventions and equipment, all the elements that identify them as “games.” People play games, on fields or courts or tracks. But though the fight game is presented as a sport, you don’t play it. You fight for your life.

That inescapable reality, instantly identifiable to any ten year old watching a boxing match for the first time, is at the heart of the unique social significance of fighters. It’s why Joe Louis’ knockout win over Max Schmeling produced a far deeper and more explosive anti-Hitler catharsis than did Jesse Owens’ four gold medals in Berlin. It’s why the best fighter in the world at any given moment is at or near the top of the athletic wage scale. Invariably. The potential audience, as Muhammad Ali grasped in an unprecedented way, is every single person on the planet.

So the story of how a rambunctiously playful Louisville kid became the most socially significant athlete of all time begins with one unique identity platform: he didn’t play a game. And his extraordinary will to fight in the ring was mirrored by an even greater will to fight outside the ring for that which he believed to be right, regardless of whether it was popular.

Instinct tells us we may never see another public figure from the sports world whose impact and legacy will equal that of Muhammad Ali. But experience makes clear that if somehow that person emerges to affect people’s emotions in the same way, he….or she… will be a fighter. The simplicity of their pursuit, and the risks they take to maximize it, give them the inside track to our hearts. And for that reason, as long as men walk on this planet, people will fight each other for money and identity and freedom, and the legend will be shared of a man named Muhammad Ali.

We leave you now with unforgettable sights and sounds from the final memorial service in Louisville. Thanks for being with us.”

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About Michael Woods

Michael Woods

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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