I think Tex Maule's account of the championship fight between Muhammad Ali and Ernie Terrell (Cruel Ali with All the Skills, Feb. 13) was degrading to the champion. Maule speaks of Ali as vindictive and of the fight as being "a wonderful demonstration of boxing skill and a barbarous display of cruelty." Boxing is cruel, boxers are vindictive and life is gray, not black and white.
He is ridiculed for what he says and for what he doesn't say. He is rebuked for his religious beliefs and the company he keeps. He has been called an extremist and a traitor to his country. Isn't it time we silenced our insults and recognized Cassius Clay for what he is, the finest heavyweight in a decade?
Muhammad Ali apologized over TV for his conduct during the eighth round of his recent championship fight with Ernie Terrell. It was not necessary. If the American public is going to judge a fighter's character and public image, in addition to judging his talents, then it is grossly unfair and unjust to fail to shed sufficient light on the many things that contribute to a person's character. Anyone who denounces Ali's Black Muslim affiliation, without making it clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the Black Muslims are a strong reaction to everything that is shameful in America, demonstrates a blatant lack of integrity. We have Black Muslims because we also have "black Christianity," "black justice," "black democracy," "black Judaism," "black dual-standards" and "black opportunity." In becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church, I, a Negro, have reacted to "black America" by attempting to make it white (not to be confused with "whitewashing").
Muhammad Ali has been severely criticized for his alleged unpatriotic statements. If more of us, black and white, spoke with equal candor, Ali's statements would represent an overwhelming majority. It's just that we believe in "popular," or "proper" declarations, which parallel Ali's Cause but fail to produce his Effect.
I was in the U.S. Air Force for three years and received an honorable discharge in 1949. If Uncle Sam called me again to the service of my country, I wouldn't even insist that I go in as a chaplain (who, as a rule, enjoys noncombat status). I wouldn't even ask for time to pick up my tooth brush. But that certainly doesn't mean that I relish the idea of cutting off my earthly career, prematurely, when I think it can be avoided. I have not accrued the wealth that Ali presumably has, but I have accrued enough comforts, skills, knowledge, spiritual depth and wealth, security and happiness to want to continue enjoying them.
I wish my parishioners would be a little more like Ali—outspoken. The universal church I serve is branded as being out of date or ineffective. If it appears to be so, it is because we ministers are seldom "permitted" to deal with significant and honest problems—only with what people choose to expose of themselves (which is pitifully little). So Ali gives a grand expose of what so many of us really think and, instead of dealing charitably with it, we clobber him.
We owe Ali an apology; he doesn't owe the public a damned thing (besides those disciplines we all owe a civilized society). When any man climbs into a ring and risks getting his brains scrambled—in a day when brains are valued above all else—for our entertainment, we can ill afford to brand or humiliate him. Ali is everybody—unrestrained. Our world would be better if we had more clay pigeons to shoot at rather than the hidden terrors we face.
THE REV. LEWIS P. BOHLER JR.
Church of the Advent (Episcopal)
Your Feb. 6 cover is superb, except that the title, "The Big Fight: Clay vs. Terrell," could have read "The Big Fight: Cassius Clay vs. Muhammad Ali." It would appear that this man's biggest fight is with himself. He has not found himself yet, and so the fight goes on. The two images of him on your cover showing his unsure footing are quite apropos.
KARL E. WARMING
Congratulations on your prompt, on-the-spot coverage of the Clay-Terrell fight. Robert Handville's lifelike drawings are particularly impressive and provide a refreshing change of pace.
KNOWING THE SCORE
After witnessing the match between Clay and Terrell I have come to one conclusion: since we are now in the jet age, we should be able to bring boxing up to date also. Why not save an opponent or contestant from serious damage from a severe beating such as Terrell took from Clay by having the scores posted after each round for everyone to see? It's a shame to have to watch a man being beaten nearly to death before we can find out if he has won or lost.
CHARLIE W. STOVALL