By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maharajah Muhammad Ali

Elementary black-and-white television was just taking roots in India in the 1970s, with a single channel (usually with no more than four hours of simple programs in the evenings), telecast by the Government-owned organization Doordarshan, meaning 'Distant Vision'.  Color TV and multiple channels were developed in the 1980s, rather sluggishly. 

In my humorous column Delhiberations in the Evening News, I used to comment occasionally on the slow but steady progress achieved.  My outlook and tone were always optimistic and hopeful, invariably giving the benefit of doubt to the organization, which I called Delhivision for fun. 

I never made any significant contribution to the spectacular growth of television in India which has materialized since then;  but I do think that in its infant days in the Capital of India, my column did happen to be a source of valuable moral support and encouragement to the medium.

Moreover, every now and then those initial stages of growth of Indian TV created good opportunities for me to write something not only critical but also creative, which I thought would have permanent value and would be quite readable in the 21st century.

Well, here we are in the 21st century now;  and here's something I had scribbled 35 years ago, --  and I hope it will pass the test of time!

Evening News, New Delhi
8 Oct. 1977

Ring King!

My name is Muhammad Ali King,
From rooftops I will shout:
I rule the roost in the boxing ring,
No man can knock me out.

I would have licked the great Joe Louis
If only I had fought him;
Big Sonny Liston went all gluey,
The kind o' lesson I taught him!

I am the greatest champ, you bet,
I am the best and cleverest;
I am the biggest jumbo jet,
I am the top of Everest.

But folks, this time I must concede --
If I beat this Shavers fellah,
I owe my winning streak indeed
To the will and mercy of Allah!  
I read somewhere recently that Muhammad Ali's famous Kinhasa fight with George Foreman was seen by a quarter of the world's population, on closed-circuit TV, video tapes or film.  Unfortunately I can't count myself among that huge chunk of humanity.
Delhivision, as I have written in this column before, is rather good at covering sports.  But apart from the Olympics,  its coverage of international sports events isn't perhaps very impressive.  I don't know what financial constraints there would be  --  but if we could see on our TV a match like the Ali-Foreman encounter, it would surely be a memorable experience!

It is reported that after  his recent match with Ernie Shavers at Madison Square Garden in New York, Muhammad Ali, who won on points after 15 tough  rounds, said:  "Thank Allah I won!  Praise Allah!"

We've been used for a long time to Ali's "I'm the greatest!" line.  Apparently at 35 Muhammad Ali has become humble enough to attribute his success to God's grace.   
It is intriguing to see the way sportsmen in their thirties begin to sense the beginning of the end.

Although football king Pele staged a spectacular come-back some time ago, it now looks as if he has finally retired from competitive soccer at the age of 37.   Muhammad Ali is still going strong at 35, but  no doubt he realizes that some day he must also quit the scene.

The whole world loves to see a great sportsperson survive the vicissitudes of time and age.  Sports-lovers all over the world would indeed be deeply disappointed when Muhammad Ali says good-bye to boxing, whether he lays down the gloves as world champion or bows out to defeat.

Let us hope that Delhivision will give us some long glimpses of this colorful sportsman while he's still reigning in the ring! 
Postscript, 2012
Just compare the above comments I had made in 1977 with the following comments made by former Indian Test cricketer G. Viswanath a few days ago (The Hindu, Nov. 28, 2012):- 
"Two ageing champion batsmen --  India's Sachin Tendulkar and Australia's Ricky Ponting -- have come a cropper in recent times.... clearly both are in the twilight zone of their careers. 
"Some have expressed pity at his plight, but feel that Tendulkar has some more bright days in international cricket and wish him well.... Recently Tendulkar told a television channel: 'I am 39 and no one expects me to go on playing for ever.  I will go with what my heart says....'
"Ponting.... is reported to be having the support of the selectors....  According to Australia coach Mickey Arthur, Ponting, who will turn 38 on December 19, is in the radar for next year's Ashes, but there will be pressure on him to score some runs...."

No comments:

Post a Comment