Monday, July 20, 2009
Globally, this July 20 holds significant meaning in human history as NASA's moon landing told the world that impossible is just a mere formality en route to success.
Today, the fortieth anniversary of this otherworldly achievement is a good day to remind ourselves of what was the proverbial moon landing in sports; an event that was to occur when pigs would fly, when hell freezes over and when Creed got back together.
Wait a minute…
The most celebrated integration efforts in sports history took place when Jackie Robinson suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yet, it was Jack Johnson who made the world stand up and take notice. As the first black heavyweight champion in boxing history, he was also scientific in the ring as he was brash away from it.
His life was loosely interpreted by a personal favorite film, “The Great White Hope” by the immortal James Earl Jones, but the true story was crystallized in recent years by the excellent documentary and book, “Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson”. In both stories, you’ll see how he was deified and vilified by whites and blacks, fans and media and one future commissioner of baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
Though becoming the heavyweight champion of the world was built up as inevitable within the press, it was not without some of those pushing the cause continuing their racist condescension towards the Galveston, Texas native.
In the need to keep things rather short today – it is also this writer’s birthday, you know – I’ll leave you to reading all about one of the most important figures in both sports and human history. At a time when society was still in the dark ages of racial progress, to think that a non-white American (an African-American, in fact) could have held the world’s attention for his athletic gifts was unfathomable, let alone remarkable.