Ali-Frazier and The Evolution Of An Athlete

I grew up a big Bruce Lee fan. Knowing his 30 for 30 was coming up last night, I went to the TV guide and set the DVR. While doing so, I noticed ESPN was showing Ali-Frazier II and III, so i recorded those as well. I had seen the highlights, but never the whole, or most, of either fight. I am 41. I just missed the Ali career, with my childhood being the Tyson years.

So, I fired up II while having breakfast with my wife this morning. She is a decade younger than me. Her Ali knowledge is cursory. So, i was explaining these were late career fights; that most of his more famous matches were, because at his peak they were not fights, they were beatings.

“Still, it amazes me what athletic use to look like. These guys are not athletic,” she said. She even called them pudgy. I mentioned George Foreman. “The grill guy?” Yeah, the grill guy. I didn’t have the heart to ask her what I am if they are pudgy. No, I don’t need you to answer that in the comments either.

See, Sarah has this professional habit of studying how people move. It is engrained in her. Even when she is not working at an AT, that is not something you can turn off.

We had the same discussion while watching The Last Dance, the 10-hour Jordan commercial. Watching those Celtics and Piston games, she was amazed at how poorly we moved. We talked about how Jordan was never known as a great shooter, he just moved differently than most did back then. He was the first to move like an average NBA player does now. Then when the league started to catch up to that, competitiveness and preparation took over.

(Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

But still, the lack of movement skills by and large stood out.

Want to get a decent idea, take a teenage NBA fan of today. Don’t show them Jordan or Bird highlights. Show them full games. Show them a Random Tuesday night Bucks-Pacers game. Then tell them this was when sports was best. And watch their reaction.

It would be like telling a kid who grew up on Call of Duty or Overwatch that Pong or Frogger is the best game ever. Or telling a Madden fan that Tecmo Bowl is actually better. Remove nostalgia and those are laughable statements.

The one exception might be the southern Illinois football athlete. I swear we were better when we were tossing square hay bales all summer. But, like I often say, that could be the “nostalgia and ego are undefeated” kicking in.

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