Smoking Joe Frazier died on November 7, 2011 of cancer. He was professional boxing’s model of a fighter in the ring and out, a no frills kind of competitor known especially for his confrontations with Muhammad Ali. He was also a gentleman, as far as boxers go, who upon retirement lived his life away from the public eye in a rather unspectacular, yet civil manner that a lot of people haven’t been able to do. The greatest tragedy is that Frazier died at 67, a relatively young age of cancer, that scourge of a disease that we have yet to find a cure. I don’t know if it’s because of ineptitude, indifference, a sense of being overwhelmed by other more pressing medical issues that prevents us from finding a cure, but it’s high time, in the second decade of the 21st century that we find a cure.
Years ago, then president John Kennedy issued a challenge to America and its government that we land on the moon, saying no single project will be more impressive to mankind. I wish Barack Obama would make a similar challenge to today’s America to find a cure for cancers backing that challenge up, as Kennedy did, with the full force and weight of the American treasury. I know that Obama doesn’t have the same compliant members of Congress that Kennedy had when he made his speech on May 25, 1961 and that’s another tragedy that marks Frazier’s death. Too many Americans, humans of all walks of life, have died from a disease that should be, could be curable were we to put our collective hearts, minds and resources into finding that cure. Why we don’t is the biggest tragedy of all.
The second death to occur in sports was that of innocence after the shocking news that a former Penn State football coach had been indicted on 4o counts of alleged sexual abuse of young boys, men, in his care as founder of The Second Mile charity. The allegations are sordid, and Jerry Sandusky is presumed innocent, but the death of trust by a society so sports drenched to depend on athletic authorities to make the right decisions for athletes has been cemented with this latest news about Sandusky and by extension the Penn State football program. His indictment has taken down the athletic director, the head football coach, the longest serving coach in division A athletics and Penn State’s president. It’s also an awful indictment of how careless, cavalier and indifferent people in positions of authority in athletics towards those who they were responsible for. No parent, nor any athlete should ever look at a coach or sports administrator in the same way after this news; perhaps Charles Barkley was right when he eschewed the notion that he or any other athlete is a role model. Sandusky has proven they can be just as vile as any other citizen. Now might be the time for people to be responsible for themselves and their loved ones and not delegate that responsibility to athletic heroes.
- My Summer at Penn State Football Camp with Jerry Sandusky (ballhyped.com)
- Disgrace at Penn State (csmonitor.com)
- “Smoking Joe” Frazier Dies of Liver Cancer at 67 (goodolewoody.wordpress.com)
- Joe Frazier: A small heavyweight but a giant of a man (mirror.co.uk)