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MUHAMMAD: On Playing, and Winning … and Winning

Askia Muhammad | 4/2/2014, 3 p.m.
Athletic competition has a lot in common with military combat.
Askia Muhammad

Then when the game was over, bedlam broke out. Our fans commenced to beat and chase the unsuspecting mostly White opposing fans. Two dozen of them were hospitalized. Our school was suspended from the league in all sports for one year. We lost much, much more than a game and a chance for another championship that day. We lost our dignity, our soul, our very humanity.

Then later, I was living in Chicago and I learned another important lesson about playing your heart out, without “winning.” On the Southside we had a great Congress member named Ralph Metcalfe who became a real hero in our eyes when he stood up to Mayor and Chicago Boss Richard Daley.

The Chicago police and FBI, in cahoots with a snitch on the inside, drugged Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, then attacked them while they lay drugged and defenseless, murdering both men, and because of course there were guns inside the police claimed the shooting was justified.

As a loyal member of the Daley political machine, all Black politicians were expected to toe the line and defend the defenseless murder of those innocent men. Congressman Metcalfe did not. He condemned the murders and the murderers, and Boss Daley tried to slap Metcalfe down, but the people rallied to his defense and despite what political bosses and precinct captains told the voters and city employees who were all part of the patronage system, the people stood with Metcalfe!

It was only after those heroics on his part that I learned that Ralph Metcalfe had been a star athlete. He was the Silver Medalist behind the great Jesse Owens in the 100 meter and 200 meter races in the 1936 Olympics. Of course everyone knew about Owens’s four Gold Medal victories in the 1936 Berlin Games, defeating in his face, Adolf Hitler’s Aryan racial supremacy myth, and proclaiming the meritocracy of sports.

But who knew that just like in 1968 in Mexico, there were two champions in Berlin, Jesse Owens who won, and Ralph Metcalfe who finished in second place, but who was also a victor. There’s winning, and then there’s Winning.