‘I am the greatest’, was his catch cry and he was right. However, for Ali he was fortunate to have been a star of the sixties and seventies when free to air television was the king maker. I recall our family sitting around our black and white television waiting for the ‘Thriller in Manilla’. Watching local Australian boxing heroes like Lionel Rose and Johnny Famechon become world champions.
While not a boxing fan at all, it was symptomatic of the time that television delivered, and made our heroes and heroines.
Then along came paid television and while making a lot of money for some, it has reduced boxing in particular to nothing more than a sideshow with the result that no one outside of those willing to fork out for expensive viewing rights would know who is a world champion at present. If Ali was fighting today, no one would even know about it.
It’s symptomatic of our new ‘pay to view’ television world that unless you shell out dollars, you’re stuck with cheap reality TV, re-runs of re-runs and shopping channels. Most sports have suffered the same fate as they swapped quick mega-bucks for loyal fans. Not the stuff that makes heroes.
So how do we make heroes nowadays? Facebook, Twitter, MTV and YouTube? But guess what? Unless you pay for high profile coverage, you’ll never become a hero. Social media companies are turning the pay-to-view television concept on its head. They don’t pay mega-bucks for the rights to today’s reincarnations of Mohammed Ali. It’s today’s reincarnations of Mohammed Ali that pay them to be seen.
I have my doubts that ‘The Louisville Lip’ would have become ‘The Greatest’ in today’s ‘pay to be a hero’ world.