By Guest Contributor Theresa Runstedtler, cross-posted from her blog
In reflecting on his tumultuous life and storied career, boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard recently told Guardian reporter Donald McRae, “I went through real darkness but the ring was my light. That was the one place I felt safe. I could control what happened in the ring. My heart turned icy” (my emphasis added). In his new autobiography, The Big Fight: My Story, Leonard reveals a painful past hidden behind the headlines of his historic ring victories–one of sexual abuse, a sense of rejection, and struggles with substance abuse.
What does it mean that Sugar Ray had to find safety in the violent confines of the boxing ring? What does it mean that he could only really feel empowered and free when fighting other men? McRae notes that back in the 1980s British boxing writer Hugh McIlvanney “spoke vividly of the hard chip of ice that Leonard stored in his fighting heart.” It seemed as if “Sugar Ray must have endured terrible darkness to fight with such chilling brilliance.” The turmoil of Leonard’s life outside the ring made his career in the ring a matter of financial and spiritual survival.
Yet Sugar Ray’s autobiographyis much more than just a personal, singular story. His haunting revelations expose much about the racist society he lived in, and how little that society valued young black men like him in any other setting than the squared circle.
During my “glory days” playing high school football–among other positions I played linebacker–there was a game where, after several tackles (pretty amazing tackles if I remember them correctly), I found myself rolling on the ground in pain. Their running back decided to thrust his helmet into my gut leaving me gasping for air. I would later find out that the opposing coach encouraged his players to “take me out”: a helmet to the gut would do that for at least one play.
The fact that a nobody player in a nothing high-school football game between two tiny private schools in Los Angeles was “taken out” illustrates how encouraged violence is part and parcel to football culture, even if there were no “‘knockouts’…worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs,” rewards uncovered as part of the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty program” last week.
On Friday, I joined Alyssa Rosenberg on Bloggingheads.Tv, to chat about the Oscars, which is my least favorite subject. We covered stereotypes, the expectations of the academy, and how to determine what is “a best picture.” But last night had some interesting upsets.
Kathryn Bigelow took home the award for the Best Picture for The Hurt Locker. Thea points out “Much to the shock and delight of all my tweeps, Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win Best Director, the day before International Women’s Day no less. And for a movie that is actually pretty great; that among other things, provides an unadulterated shot at what it means to be the harbinger of Western, American imperialism against wholly humanised civilians (of colour).”
Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Blind Side. As was expected, Mo’Nique took home Best Supporting Actress for Precious.
Mo’nique’s backstage post-acceptance speech is also worth discussing. Explaining that her outfit is a tribute to Hattie McDaniel (the first African-American winner of an Oscar, for her supporting role in Gone with the Wind), she goes on to discuss her motivation in the role. She says: “This role was not about my acting career. This role has shaped my life. To allow me not to judge and to love unconditionally.”
And Avatar didn’t sweep the Oscars, but they still netted 3 awards.
Oh, and guess who else took home a statue?
Pixar’s Up floated away with Best Animated Picture and Best Original Score.