When Muhammad Ali visited UALR

In 1969, what is now the University of Arkansas-Little Rock received a surprise visit from the former heavyweight champion.

Looking through the Arkansas Gazette archives, I was surprised to learn Muhammad Ali visited Little Rock University — now known as UALR — in 1969. The legendary boxer had been banned from boxing after refusing military service two years earlier, and was on a speaking tour at college campuses nationwide. His swing through Arkansas also included speeches at the UA, Philander Smith College and what is now UAPB (where the photo in this post was taken).

The below is from March 11, 1969:

ALI’S SURROUNDED AT LRU AFTER SIDE-DOOR ENTRANCE

Muhammad Ali paid a surprise visit to Little Rock University Monday morning and spent about an hour in the student union talking with students, shaking hands and signing autographs. Ali entered the side door of the Union with several Negro students and stood talking to the Negro students inside for about five minutes before any of the white students seem to recognize him.

He was immediately encircled by students and instructors when he was recognized. Ali, who was scheduled to speak to students at Arkansas AM and N College at Pine Bluff later in the day, said he came to LRU, “to see how things are.”
He signed autographs on anything from notebook paper to textbooks. One woman asked to his hand “so I can tell my husband.”
Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, answered students’ questions on subjects ranging from black separatism (he’s for it) to the Vietnam War (he’s against it.) On Vietnam, he recited a poem, which began “Hell no! I won’t go” which met some cheers.
Ali has been found guilty of refusing induction into the Army. He is appealing on the ground that he should be deferred as a black Muslim minister. He changed his name from Cassius Clay when he converted to that religion. Ali, dressed in a dark business suit, arrived on the campus in his black limousine, which he announced was as good as a car as President Nixon’s.”
Ali discussed theory of black separatism briefly with the 50 or 60 students gathered around them. He said he was against integration because it was forced. He said he was against interracial marriage and that the Negro had all the variety he needed within his own race.

“If you want a chocolate one,” he said putting his arm around a Negro student, “or a honey-gold one,” he said grabbing another girl, “or a peach one,” as he put his arm still another.

Negro students escorted Ali to the parking lot. The students gave a loud cheer as Ali rode away in his black limousine.

Ali & George Foreman: “The silent hulking brute becomes America’s sweetheart”

This is Part 2 of a fascinating discussion between sports commentator Dave Zirin and sportswriter Robert Lipstye on the proud socio-cultural legacy of Muhammad Ali. Check out Part 1 here.

The below originally aired on Zirin’s Edge of Sports show.

Zirin: You ever think about this? You talked about it being Shakespearean and whatnot. Ever notice how George Foreman, Frazier, Larry Holmes, these were not big talkers, but they became big talkers in retirement. While Ali loses his speech, almost like his powers were sent to the people he vanquished, or that they vanquished him. I always found that to be almost too cinematic for words as well.

I don’t know — I just thought I’d throw that out there to you.

Robert Lipsyte: It’s a beautiful thought.

Dave Zirin: You’ve met Larry Holmes a million times, he’s the funniest guy in any rooms he’s in, and he certainly wasn’t that when he was a boxer.

Robert Lipsyte: Yeah, and think of George Foreman.

Dave Zirin: Oh my God, that’s the ultimate one. The silent hulking brute becomes America’s sweetheart.

You know it's true.
                   You know it’s true.

Robert Lipsyte: Yeah. One thing is George, it was the end of an interview. He had been very warm and open. I said, “How did he feel that he was an accomplice in the physical destruction of Muhammad Ali?” Of what he was now.

He said, “I think about the great war heroes and how we honor them and see them take out their glass eye or remove their prosthetic arm, and we can only be grateful that they sacrificed so much for us. That’s the way I feel about Muhammad Ali.” I go, “Whoa, where did that come from?” I mean, maybe your idea of Ali transferring his energy and poetics to those he had beaten is part of that.

Dave Zirin: I gotta say, my favorite George Foreman moment is I interviewed him and I said, “What did you think the first time you learned who Muhammad Ali was?” He said, “We were terrified in my poor neighborhood in Houston because the heavyweight champ was a black Muslim.” I said, “Oh, you didn’t like Muslims?” He said, “No, we didn’t know what Muslims were. We were terrified he was calling himself black. We were Negroes!”

Robert Lipsyte: (laughs) That’s wonderful.

Dave Zirin: What was the experience like the first time you ever saw Muhammad Ali? Or I should say Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. — what was your impression?

Robert Lipsyte: I did not see him alone, as you know. The reason I had been sent to cover that first Liston fight was that at the time most everybody thought that he would be knocked out in the first round and they didn’t want to waste the time of a real reporter, so send a kid — that was me. I had yet to meet him.

I went up to the 5th street gym at the same time that The Beatles showed up for a photo op. Ali, Cassius Clay, had not yet arrived so the five of us were shoved in a deserted dressing room and the door was locked. I was the fifth beetle for that 15 minutes. They were very angry. They were really not quite The Beatles yet. They were very angry at being trapped like this. They banged on the walls and cursed.

I interviewed them and I asked them what they thought of the fight. They said, “Oh, that wanker’s going to be knocked out in the first round.” They banged and cursed and kicked at the door. Then suddenly the door burst open and the five of us in unison gasped, because there before us was the most beautiful creature we had ever seen, and probably would ever see.

He was big, he was broad, he was glowing, he was laughing. He was just gorgeous. We fell silent and he stuck his head in the room and he said, “Come on, Beatles, let’s go make some money.” Then he led them out to the ring.

…Tell your listeners to go to YouTube, type in Cassius Clay and The Beatles and you’ll see these pictures. He led them into the ring, they lined up, he tapped the first one, they all went down like dominoes. They leaped up, they formed a pyramid so that they could reach up and pretend to hit his jaw. If I hadn’t known that they had never met before I would’ve thought it was all choreographed. For five or 10 minutes it was this thrilling little play of the 5 most famous people on the planet. Then it was over.

Continue reading Ali & George Foreman: “The silent hulking brute becomes America’s sweetheart”

Muhammad Ali: “not a countercultural hero sprung from the loins of Jesus”

And other insights from renowned journalist Robert Lipsyte, who knew Ali for 55 years.

 

Of all the obituaries which have run this week about the singular life of Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest belongs to a New York Times writer who knew Ali for decades.

Below is an interview between that writer, Robert Lipsyte, and preeminent sports commentator Dave Zirin on Edge of Sports. The below, Part 1 of 2, is lightly edited and condensed.

…You’ve been associated with Muhammad Ali, I was thinking about this, for 55 years almost. What have the days since his passing been like for you?

Robert Lipsyte: You know what’s interesting, Dave, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails since the obit ran and I would say the overwhelming number of them are offering consolation for my grieving process, and mentioning that they had spotted him once in an elevator, he had given them a hug from across the room. It’s so hard to separate the symbolic political figure that’s powerful shaper, in a sense, of our times, from this glowing human being who made these incredible little connections with almost everybody that he ever came in contact with.

Dave Zirin: Wow. What was your reaction when you heard he passed?

Robert Lipsyte: It’s been a bizarre period because it’s been so many years since we’ve really heard him and since he’s been Ali, that at first his death felt like a formality. But the grief has been so overpowering and the remembrances, it really was like the world stopped. You’re right, but it was a combination. On the one hand as far as I’m concerned, he’s not dead. The memories, the photographs, the legacy. He’s all still there.

On the other hand, whatever grieving process there was, that was over a few years ago. He hasn’t been Muhammad Ali for some time. Coming to grips with the incredible Greek tragedy, Shakespearean, I don’t know what would you call it, irony, of this most noble and loquacious man on the planet suddenly struck dumb and twisted into an immobile hulk. It’s terrible to even think about it.

That, of course, began to be quite evident 20 years ago at the ’96 Olympics where with that shaking hand he lit the torch. The hot wax flowed back, burnt him. He never winced or showed that.

We’ve seen for some time his retreat from the camera and from the public view, until he just became invisible to so many. I hadn’t seen him for several years. Even then, it was remarkable. I would try to ask him a question, he would put his mouth to my ear and mumble something that was absolutely incomprehensible, and his wife from across the room would speak for 5 minutes and tell me what he had just said.

She really became the curator of that legend. Not to make fun of that, because I thought that’s a very well structured paragraph that he could not have written at his zenith attacking Donald Trump for Trump’s suggestion that the government keep all the Muslims out was wonderful.

Dave Zirin: Can I ask you, we talk about this idea of Greek tragedy for me. I know I’m projecting my own politics onto the tragedy here, but this idea of someone who spoke so eloquently against war, finds himself unable to speak, his face an expressionless mask, being led to George W Bush who puts a medal around his neck.

This idea of does Muhammad Ali, A — Does he know what’s happening right now? B — Does he agree with what’s happening right now? And C — is there an issue of consent here in terms of him being in the White House and getting this medal from George Bush?

Robert Lipsyte: That’s a wonderful question. Also maybe goes to the heart of something you and I have talked about so many times about Muhammad Ali as this magnetic slate on which we can put our wishes, hopes, bumper stickers, on.

Who really knows? Who really knows what went on inside. Even from the very beginning, his closest biographer Tom Hauser, spend an awful lot of time with him. Probably more concentrated time than anybody in the ’90s when he was writing that big oral biography.

I always felt that Ali was stunted emotionally, that he probably had reached the level of a 12 year old. So much of what he did and said was the quick study of a somewhat innocent mind, a child-like mind. He was capable of things that we would interpret, but exactly what did they mean?

Continue reading Muhammad Ali: “not a countercultural hero sprung from the loins of Jesus”

Brandon Allen’s First Scrimmage Performance Worries Tyler Wilson

Airing out his views on Arkansas' current starting QB
Airing out his views on Arkansas’ current starting QB

During the Razorbacks’ first scrimmage last Saturday, Brandon Allen did not deliver his best performance of training camp. The senior starting quarterback completed only 10 of 23 passes and was picked off on his third attempt. Sure, the defensive line was stout all afternoon long, racking up eight sacks, but that pressure didn’t much faze the three backup quarterbacks. They completed 23 of a total 31 passes.

That disparity between the younger backups’ performance and the fifth-year senior is bad news, Razorback quarterback legend Tyler Wilson believes. “The completion percentage, ten of twenty-three, is a little bit worrisome,” he said on The Morning Rush with Derek Ruscin and Tommy Craft. He pointed to the 11-of-15 performance by Austin Allen, Brandon’s little brother, as more in line with what should be expected from the starter. “When you’re in the 40 percentile in completion percentage, something has got to be down. We got to increase that for us to be successful.”

Wilson’s primary concern: the scrimmage happened sufficiently late enough in training camp for Brandon Allen to be clicking. “By practice 10 it [usually] seems like the offense catches up a little bit and starts to find its footing… It didn’t seem like that was happening Saturday. The defense was still messing a lot of stuff up for the offense.”

“It is tough because the defense sees a lot of your looks. At this point in camp they kind of know what’s coming. It is agitating. It’s a little frustrating for the quarterback at times. You feel like, ‘OK, they know exactly what’s coming and I can’t do much about it.’”

Wilson, now a co-host on The Morning Rush (ESPN Arkansas 96.3 95.3 & 104.3 FM), had more interesting on-air insights. Here are a couple excerpts:

On difference between Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins:

When you watch the two guys run Jonathan Williams is more of an attack type running back… Alex Collins is a little more fleet of foot. He’s more of an outside guy. One is more south, one is a little more east-west. When Alex Collins is going to carry 70 percent of the carries this year and is going to carry a lot more of the workload, I have a little bit of a worry he’s maybe not able to do the things that together they would’ve been able to do… Obviously there have been some ball security issues [with Collins]. I think when you have those issues you think somewhat feeble, not as strong, not as big, not as maybe aggressive as a guy like Jonathan Williams – that’s just what’s in some people’s heads.

On similarity between Jonathan Williams’ season-ending injury and Knile Davis’ in 2011:

Very similar in terms of timing, in terms of expectations from a particular highly thought of, highly regarded running back that was going to get a lot of carries  but now he’s no longer there… Knile was the one guy that I believed everybody thought was going to be a key to our success throughout football season. We had some good wide receivers and some what unknown on how I was going to play quarterback that year, but Knile Davis was that instrumental piece. He was the guy that was on the cover of the media guides and went to SEC Media Day…

I think for a lot of fans, you hate that he’s gone but you got to find a way to patch it together. By the way, all that 2011 team did, when Knile Davis went down, was win 11 games and the Cotton Bowl that year… We still had Dennis Johnson that year. Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Ringo were on the team so the thing kept moving right along.


 

Want more of these kinds of detailed Arkansas sports interview excerpts? Check out BestOfArkansasSports.com’s near-daily roundup. 

Malik Monk goes for 50 points, owns dunk contest at Bass Pro Tournament of Champions

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 10.19.21 PM

I don’t think there’s a more enjoyable “new-school” player – in age and style of play – whom I enjoy watching more than
Bentonville High’s Malik Monk. And his exploits fit so well with Hoop Mix Tape’s molten tracks..

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTqXhwyWdQc]

And, to think – someone dared give this a negative vote. In all likelihood it was a half-sober Charles Barkley, jealous his alma mater has no shot at him.

Top 50 (ish) Major College Football Rivalry Trophies: Part 2

The Egg Bowl, as a concept, is dull.
The Egg Bowl, as a concept, is dull.

This is the last chapter of the my three-part series ranking the nation’s 60+ FBS trophies based on how sweet the trophy looks, and how cool its background is. I broke down and scored each trophy according to Originality, Tradition and Sheer Awesomeness (L-R below).

The far right number represents the Trophy Sweetness score, which I incorporated into a far more absurdly complicated meta-ranking formula (involving the rival programs’ NFL draft picks, competitiveness and all-time Top 10 finishes) for SB Nation.

24.

Golden Egg Ole Miss-Mississippi State 1927 3 5 2 10

Catchy name, but the actual thing – a golden football on a pedastal – is so ho-hum. Lots of creative folks in Oxford. Surely Ole Miss’ Sigma Iota could have come up with some more imaginative.

23.

The Saddle TCU-Texas Tech 1961 4 3 3 10

Good idea. Just wish it had been the schools – not local newspapers looking to generate publicity – which came up with it.

22.

Victory Bell Miami (Ohio)-Cincinnati 1899* 2 5 3 10

Such a now-cliched trophy idea can be excused if it was fresh back in the day, as the 19th century inter-campus shenanigans involved here lead me to believe it was.

21.

Keg of Nails Louisville-Cincinnati 1929 4 3 3 10

Basing your trophy on the saying “tough as nails” is a thumbs down. Making it into a keg full of nails is thumbs up.

shillelagh

20.

Jewelled Shillelagh USC-Notre Dame 1952 3 4 3 10

A Shillelagh is a war club made of oak or blackthorn saplings from Ireland. It’s said those are the only woods because they are the only ones tougher than an Irish skull.

19.

Old Brass Spittoon Michigan State-Indiana 1950 5 3 3 11

Conflicting reports on whether players do or don’t spit into it during celebration.

18.

Golden Boot Arkansas-LSU 1992 4 3 4 11

It cost $10,000 to make. That ties Fremont Cannon for land’s most expensive.

Continue reading Top 50 (ish) Major College Football Rivalry Trophies: Part 2

Matt Stinchcomb: Arkansas’ 2014 Offense is a Gridiron “Valhalla”

References to Norse mythology’s Great Hall of the Slain, Residence of the Supreme God Odin, do not every day percolate the chatter of the Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly afternoon radio show based in Northwest Arkansas.

But not every day does Matt Stinchcomb, a former All-American tackle at Georgia who analyzes college football for the SEC Network, chime in with Bo about the way Arkansas’ offense is grounded in its historically massive offensive line.

“That offense is like Valhalla,” Stinchcomb told Bo earlier this week. “When we all get off this mortal coil, anybody who was ever unathletic enough to have [had to play] offensive line, that’s what we would spend eternity doing – is just running double-team blocks and just cramming tailbacks down a defense’s throat. It’s an incredibly explosive offense.”

Stichcomb was speaking to Bo about Saturday afternoon’s Georgia-Arkansas game in Little Rock. “Arkansas, I’m convinced, is a very good team and may better than any team in the SEC East. That’s what I think we’ll find out this Saturday.”

Promising time for Arkansas, from ground (game) level to 36,000 feet

Nice quick preview below for the Arkansas-Texas A&M by Little Rock native George Schroeder. For a much more technical, detailed preview (from the Aggies’ perspective) see the following: http://tamu.247sports.com/Article/Texas-AM-Arkansas-Myles-Garrett-Kenny-Hill-Trey-Williams-31403224

Converting for Era – Part 1: Could Scottie Pippen Play 3 and D?

I love these cross-generational comparisons, and this is a very good, nuanced look at what kind of offensive player Pippen would likely be in the modern NBA era. I’d love to see a similar one done with Drazen Petrovic – he was an absurdly efficient shooter (with unlimited range) that my intuition is that had the 1992-93 version of Petrovic been dropped into the 2014-15 NBA season, he’d be considered one of the top 5 offensive players in the game.

Arkansas State University Pays Unintentional Homage to Chevy Chase

Arkansas State University is no joke. This is a legit mid-major football program, winner of three consecutive Sun Belt titles, and on Saturday hung tight against  a stronger Tennessee squad in front of nearly 100,000 rabid, enemy fans.

The Red Wolves are nothing to lampoon.

Now, the following coincidence that happened at Neyland Stadium is a different matter altogether:

combo
Some things just go together. Other things – not so much.

God bless Chevy Chase and the iconic vacation film series his character Clark Griswold spawned. And keeps spawning – on into the next generation. Thanks to this man’s ineffable talent, we now have our latest member inducted into the Arkansas College Football Jersey .GIF Hall of Fame/Infamy.

Perhaps you’ll recall the charter member depicted beneath:

A classic.