For the record, let’s note that sports metaphors don’t work for politics. After the whole win-or-lose thing, they fall apart. Standing on a stage and debating nuclear proliferation and universal health care is nothing like smacking a 95-mph fastball, hitting a receiver on a button route or running a good pick-and-roll.
But let us never pass on the chance at an Ali-Frazier reference.
Perhaps not since the Louisville Lip got put on the canvas by Smoking Joe has the world been so interested, been rooting so passionately for somebody to take a stiff hook to the jaw, been analyzing the match-ups so endlessly in the weeks, days and hours before the bell rang.
If you’re of a certain age, you cheered for Ali and Frazier, and that told people something about you. Likewise, joining Team Hillary or Team Donald (more accurately #NeverTrump or #NotAnotherClinton) reveals a telling part of who you are today.
Ali and Frazier met three times, culminating in the Thrilla in Manila (in the spirit of fact-checking, it should be noted said fight did not take place in Manila) that nearly killed them both. It saw both fighters elevated by the effort — even if less of each was left after the fight. Frazier won the first (like tonight’s debate, in New York state). Unlike this first debate — showing on multiple networks and available to stream — you had to pay to see a closed circuit broadcast or satisfy yourself with radio reports that spilled out after every round. Ali took the first rematch and the final match in the Philippines.
Clinton-Trump promises to be a trilogy as well, with a Kaine-Pence undercard stuck in the middle. On paper, the bout holds promise because the contestants bring such wildly different styles. As James Fallows put it in The Atlantic: “Right brain versus left brain; gut versus any portion of the brain at all; impulse versus calculation; id versus superego; and of course man versus woman.”
With this showdown, people will be scoring from home, primarily through their Twitter accounts. We’ve created a live feed of pols and their people from both parties in Missouri and Kansas.
Now head to your corners and come out punching.