Joe Louis, Hitler, boxing and racism


This video from the USA is called Muhammad Ali & Joe Louis Foolin Each Other on a TV Show (1966).

By John Wight in Britain:

A credit to the human race

Saturday 21st June 2014

JOHN WIGHT tells how Joe Louis became a symbol of the fight against racism

ON JUNE 19 1936 the Brown Bomber Joe Louis climbed through the ropes at the Yankee Stadium in New York to face German heavyweight contender Max Schmeling in front of a sell-out crowd to contest a non-title bout scheduled for 15 rounds.

Louis was just 22 when he faced Schmeling for the first time, undefeated in 24 fights. Schmeling had already won and lost the world title and at 30 was felt to be easy pickings for his much younger and more complete opponent, who was already on the way to establishing the legend he was destined to become.

The onward march of fascism in Europe was the backdrop to the fight. Adolf Hitler had been in power in Germany for three years, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was intent on reliving the glory days of the Roman empire and Spain was embroiled in a brutal civil war which foreshadowed the cataclysm that was to engulf Europe and the world just a few years later.

Meanwhile, the United States regarded itself as the home of freedom and democracy, even though for young black men like Joe Louis it was closer to hell, with lynchings still a regular occurrence in parts of the south and blacks treated as second-class citizens even in areas without formal segregation.

The fight itself proved that Schmeling’s claim to have identified a flaw in the Brown Bomber’s style was not mere hyperbole. Louis had a habit of lowering his left hand after jabbing with it, which Schmeling aimed to exploit with right hands.

The German dropped Louis to the canvas for the first time in his career with just such a right hand in the fourth round and by the time he finally knocked him out in the 12th he was ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards.

It was a major upset. In black communities throughout the US Louis’ first defeat was met with huge consternation by people who saw in him their saviour and hope.

Meanwhile, after a personal message from Hitler congratulating him, Schemling told a German reporter: “At this moment I have to tell Germany, I have to report to the Führer in particular, that the thoughts of all my countrymen were with me in this fight.

“That the Führer and his faithful people were thinking of me. This thought gave me the strength to succeed in this fight. It gave me the courage and the endurance to win this victory for Germany’s colours.”

By the time of the second fight two years later, the world lay on the brink of war and the nazis’ terror campaign against communists, socialists, trade unionists, the disabled, gays, Gypsies and Jews was underway.

Schmeling and Louis were now political symbols for their respective countries whether they liked it or not and, as the fight on June 22 1938 approached, again held at New York’s Yankee Stadium, the tension far exceeded any that had been present in the lead-up to the first contest.

Despite his message praising Hitler following the first fight Schmeling was not a member of the nazi party and always denied nazi claims of racial superiority.

His wife and mother were prevented from travelling to the US with him to forestall the possibility of them defecting. His entourage included a nazi official to handle press and publicity.

It was this official who was responsible for issuing the infamous statement that a black man could not defeat Schmeling and that his purse would be used to help pay for more German tanks.

As for Louis, he attended a meeting with President Franklin D Roosevelt at the White House prior to the fight, where he was left in no doubt of the importance of the outcome to the country at large.

The irony was striking — a young black man whose people were being systematically denied their civil and human rights had become the champion of the country responsible.

Louis was a different fighter to two years earlier. Since losing to the German in 1936 he’d gone on to win the world heavyweight title and successfully defended it three times.

He was 25 and fully in his prime, which told from the opening bell when he went straight on the offensive, unleashing crunching combinations against Schemling’s body and head.

The German had no answer to the barrage and went down after just 90 seconds. When the action resumed, Louis picked up where he’d left off, again sending his opponent to the canvas.

This time Schemling’s corner, realising their man was being taken apart, intervened to call a halt to what by now was a public execution. The fight was over in the first round, causing the 70,000 people crammed into the stadium to go wild.

Perhaps the most famous line in the history of boxing was coined in the aftermath by the leading sportswriter of the day, Jimmy Cannon, who described Louis as “a credit to his race — the human race.”

The victory propelled Louis to fame and celebrity, though he was studious in not displaying any of the defiance or controversy that typified the career of his black predecessor Jack Johnson.

He knew his role and performed it to the letter, serving in the forces in World War II, in which his fame was exploited by the government in the war effort. He ended up broke as a greeter in a Las Vegas casino in his twilight years and died in 1981.

Schmeling donated money to pay for the funeral and also acted as a pallbearer, testimony to the respect and friendship both men went on to enjoy after sharing the ring together.

Schemling returned to Germany after the fight to find his status had plummeted. The nazis no longer treated him as a national hero or symbol of Aryan manhood — no great disappointment to the reluctant Schmeling.

Indeed, the German champion provided sanctuary to two Jewish boys later the same year during the Kristallnacht pogrom against the Jews.

After the war, during which he was conscripted to serve as a paratrooper, Schmeling embarked on a career in business. He died in 2005 just shy of his 100th birthday.

Louis, as with Mohammed Ali in later years, was more than just a boxer to his people.

He was a symbol of pride, strength and dignity in the face of the oppression they suffered in the land of the free.

Martin Luther King later described what Louis meant to them when he wrote about the execution of a young black prisoner in a southern prison.

As the poison gas pellets were dropped in the death chamber and the gas swirled upwards, his last words were: “Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis…”

Costa Rica 1-Italy 0, congratulations with frog video


This video is about gliding leaf frogs in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica played against Italy today at the football World Cup in Brazil.

In the World Cup’s “group of death“, were underdogs Costa Rica had to play three teams which had been world champions, Costa Rica won 1-0.

This means that Costa Rica can continue to the next round. Congratulations!

The Costa Rican frog video is to celebrate the decisive Costa Rican goal.

Roe deer, entangled in football goal, saved


This video from England is called Roe Deer, Abbotts Wood, Hailsham 11th June 2014.

Wildlife Extra writes about this video:

Volunteer rescuers from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) were called out to attend a deer rescue with a difference on 11 June 2014 after receiving a report of a deer with its antlers entangled in a child’s football goal.

The risky rescue took place at the edge of Abbotts Wood about a five minute walk from Robin Post Lane, Hailsham. Two ambulances attended on site and rescuers searched for the deer before discovering it at the edge of the wood in tall vegetation.

“As we approached the deer it dragged the netting and metal poles from the damaged frame with it and it slide[d] into a dry ditch” said Trevor Weeks MBE from WRAS.

Trevor had to tackle the deer and pin it to the floor. The deer’s head was then covered and the netting was then cut away.

“You have a 30 minute window in which to cut these deer free of they risk having a heart attack” added Trevor.

After spending about five minutes working on the deer the netting was cut free and the metal poles and remaining netting was cleared out the away before Trevor jumped off the deer allowing it to get up and run off back to the wild.

“The rescues are guaranteed to get your heart racing but it is so good to see the results of your efforts, when the deer run back off to the wild” said WRAS Trustee Kathy Martin.

The YouTube text with the video says:

As you can see he was very happy to run off free. His mate appeared to be in the nearby field and had been seen with him when he was first found.

English poem on Hillsborough football disaster


This video from Britain is called Orgreave/Hillsborough: South Yorkshire Police Cover-Up?

By Carroll Ann Dunn in England:

They’ll Never Walk Alone

Wednesday 18th June 2014

The fans had come to Sheffield
To see their idols play,
Their chants were loud but happy
On that fatal April day.

The fans were all excited,
convinced their team would win;
Police had packed them tighter
And ever tighter in.

The crush grew suffocating
And fans soon realised
A tragedy was happening
Before their very eyes.

Though pressed against the railings
Like cattle in a pound,
Some fans were helping others
Climb out to safer ground;

Though they could hardly breathe,
They hoisted children high,
Passed them along to safety
Then stayed behind to die.

Police would blame them later:
‘The fans were drunk’ they lied;
That rag the Sun abused as scum
The innocent who died
.

The inquest (well, the first one)
Claimed ‘Accidental Death’;
An insult on an injury
That took away our breath.

Now Merseyside united,
The red side with the blue;
As purple as a bruise,
One colour from the two.

Through all their bruising battles
They were bloodied but unbowed;
They brought us a new unity,
They did our city proud;

They showed us our true colours
These loved ones of the dead,
To find some kind of peace of mind,
To help put pain to bed.

Will we walk with these families,
Now that the end’s in sight
For justice for the ninety six?
Will we? Too fucking right.

Carol Ann Dunn was born and raised in Liverpool but has lived in Leeds for over 30 years, working as a teacher and trainer across West Yorkshire. A singer of both traditional and choral music, she began writing poetry and ballads on a course at Maddy Prior‘s Stones Barn and does so on subjects that are important to her, such as this one.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter.

UK: Hillsborough disaster inquest reveals safety violations by stadium operator: here.

Costa Rica 3-Uruguay 1, congratulations with bird videos


This video is about a male resplendent quetzal in the Savegre valley in Costa Rica.

Like favourites and reigning football world champions Spain lost 1-5 to the Netherlands: tonight underdogs Costa Rica won unexpectedly 3-1 against Uruguay. Uruguay had won the World Cup twice, and was #4 at the last World Cup.

To congratulate Costa Rica, here are three videos, one per goal, about the beautiful birds in Costa Rica.

This video is called Amazing hummingbirds – Costa Rica.

And this video is called Toucans of Costa Rica.

Talking about wildlife in Costa Rica: there will be more of my reports about it, but sorting out photos took longer than expected. But Costa Rican wildlife reports will be back at this blog.

Toucan predicts Dutch team will win against Spain


According to this toco toucan from Rotterdam zoo in the Netherlands, the Dutch football team will win today’s World Cup game in Brazil against Spain.

At half time, this was not true yet. Both teams one goal each.

The beautiful Dutch goal, by Robin van Persie, is on video here.

UPDATE: toucan Chicito was right; 5-1 for the Netherlands against reigning world champions Spain.

Football World Cup, Dutch and Spanish fans’ songs, and history


This music video from the Netherlands is the song De Zilvervloot (starting about 0:30 after the start of the video). It is a nineteenth century song about seventeenth century Dutch admiral Piet Hein, who captured the treasure fleet with the silver being transported from South America to Spain in 1628.

Tonight in Brazil, the 2014 football world cup will start with a match between the host country and Croatia. Tomorrow, Spain, one of the favourite teams, and the Netherlands, not one of the favourite teams, will play each other. One of the songs Dutch fans will sing probably then is De Zilvervloot, about Piet Hein.

The subject of the song is from the time when the Dutch Republic was at war to become independent from the Spanish monarchy. Fortunately, today Spain and the Netherlands don’t wage war against each other; they just play football. There is more chance of worsening conflict between Spain and Britain about Gibraltar; and between the Spanish monarchy plus political establishment and most Spanish people who want a choice between monarchy and republic in a referendum.

The Dutch-Spanish 1568-1648 war, the eighty years war, is remembered much more often in the Netherlands than in Spain.

One reason why quite some Spaniards still remember that war is famous seventeenth century painter Diego Velázquez.

This video, in Spanish is called Las Lanzas (La Rencición de Breda), about a famous Velázquez painting.

The painting is known in English as The Surrender of Breda. Its subject is the conquest of the Dutch city Breda by Genoese-Spanish general Ambrogio Spinola, in 1625. Velázquez finished the painting in 1635. Two years later, in 1637, Breda was recaptured by the Dutch republic, and in 1648 it was finally ceded by Spain by the Treaty of Westphalia.

Back from war and painting to football and music. Spanish football teams, like teams in other countries, sometimes have musicians among their fans in stadiums. One of the songs they play is Valencia.

This music video is Valencia, by composer Padilla. Like the Dutch Zilvervloot song, played in a concert hall; not on football bleachers.

In Valencia city there is also a well-known football club, with a bat in its coat of arms.

Coat of arms of Valencia with bat

The city has also a bat in its coat of arms.

According to legend, the bat is in the coat of arms because a bat helped a medieval king of Aragon win a battle. Which reminds me of a Central American Mayan legend about the resplendent quetzal bird.

Which takes me back to Costa Rica; also one of the football teams present at the World Cup in Brazil.

World Cup: Africa Firmly Behind Its Teams: here.