Like a Boxing Match: First of 3 Rounds. Outcome Round #1: Romney 10, Obama 9

In tonight’s powder-puff and patta-cake boxing match between the unbeaten Commander and the Great White Hope (it’s a moniker from the history of boxing), there was no shutdown, no knockdowns, no clinching (but a whole pile of clichés), no demolishing. By end of Round 1 debate: there was no one who could enthusiastically be called The Presser, The Mountain or Earthquake. (all time-honored names for great fighters).

Instead, it was a catchweight round, meaning a fight between two different weight classes, in this case, a bantyweight against a flyweight. You choose which man was which.

But/ and, listening to all the pundits after the debate, either crowing or anguishing, I saw something different than they did. Comes from the days of my dad and my uncles dressed to the nines and smoking cigars, dragging us kids to the harshly lit and smoky rowdy boxing rings of eld. President Obama’ is using boxing strategy in the debate tonight. Almost certain.

Back when, it was called ‘the sling shot.’ You lay on the ropes and let your opponent pound you while letting the ropes absorb a lot of the body shocks. It looks like you are being beaten half to death, but your head is kept out of reach by leaning far far back. You lay there observing, literally taking note, and strategizing about how to take your opponent down just a little down the road from now…

It’s called playing ‘Rope a Dope’ today. Some think this term Rope a Dope means sagging on the ropes semi-defeated by the power of the opponent’s punches. That’s not what it means.

Rope a Dope was used by Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, in the 1974 fight against George Foreman, a fight scene called “Rumble in the Jungle.” Again, it is an updated strategy of leaning way back on the ropes, body open, and allowing your opponent to throw punches until they tire themselves out– some say. But, more importantly, the opponent is allowed to feel they are winning and thereby they lose their psychological edge, they lower their defenses slightly by the inflation of thinking they are winning.

But, the person on the ropes, is studying… that’s right, studying the other guy’s offensive and defensive flaws, in order to nail their opponent just a little bit farther down the road.

Romney was ok tonight, seemingly better than Obama on the ropes. But the question has to be, why was Obama looking all puny on the ropes? Because he really is puny? Doubt it. Time will tell in the next match and the next.

Muhammad Ali let George Foreman beat the heck out of him, and as George tired, Ali then sprung up off the ropes like a boulder flying from a gigantic slingshot, and trounced Foreman with Ali’s ‘excess of skills.’

Opponents in debating when it’s for high stakes, and in boxing, when it’s for high stakes, have to have a long term strategy, one that will preserve and strengthen them from round to round.

Dont be fooled about Obama’s overcooked noodle delivery in tonight’s first debate of three dabates.

Obama’s mummy didnt raise no dummy.

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Author: DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

  • bigpartymaker

    As a boxing fan, I love your post. However, if you watched the Olympics this year, you know that with only 3 rounds, rope a dope is simply a foolish tactic. With only three rounds, you have to press the whole way and show you are the better man each round. I would think that debates are harder to judge than boxing matches (although in London I guess that wasn’t the case!).
    To me, it looked more like Obama was simply not as well prepared, and a bit rusty.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    hey, a boxing fan. Great. Thanks!
    I think because there is much time between the ’rounds’ there is plenty of time for looking like a fake ‘broken-wing.’ You know what I mean? Plover.

    We will see for sure whether its rusty or cunning. I am not sure that Romney or Obama are the most exciting guys on the planet, they may be strong each in their own ways. But Ive seen both be passionate about various matters. It just wasnt tonight. I’ve an article on Lehrer’s molasses questions up tomorrow, it has a couple boxing metaphors in it also. I keep thinking I am ringside during this campaign season it seems. lol.

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    Lovely prose and interesting analogy. Although I am very tired of the pre-event ‘analysis’ as well as the pos-event teeth gnashing, this I found pleasingly explanatory. Do I have to read any more? ;-)

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    thanks Kathy, that’s high praise coming from your fine logical mindfulness. I too, am just, well, like dont go near the tv, the polit commercials scare the dog. lol. If I hear ‘This drug might cause you to grow an extra set of ears, have your rear view mirror drop off, and make you permanently have a green tongue’…. or “I approve this message” I turn off the dang thing. lol

  • zephyr

    Well, I like your take on the debate better than any of the (several) others I’ve read this morning. Given Obama’s well documented and tested abilities in this area I have to wonder if (as you suggest) it isn’t part of a larger strategy. As I mentioned in another comment, Obama seemed tired, whereas Romney was practically manic. Jim Lehrer (who I have long respected) seemed almost useless as a moderator last night, allowing Romney to walk all over him. Any any case, I care a LOT less about popular political culture judgement of what a debate “win” looks like than I do about the substance of the debate and the credibility of the debaters. If the electorate is thinking clearly it will be swayed little be the debates in any case. Records and histories are what truly matter.

  • CStanley

    Yeah, i really doubt this was intentional strategy but this is probavly the best spin after the fact that can be put on it. There’s no doubt he’ll come out much more aggressively next time (he has to) and if he’s reasonably successful then everyone will say “see, we underestimated him, he knew what he was doing all along.”

    The evidence that i see that this was not planned is twofold. Part of it is the lack of logic in that tactic under these circumstances, and part of it is observing Obama’s body language, demeanor, and facial expressions.

    Debates and campaigns are not boxing. The analogy doesn’t work because the goals are different; in a campaign, the main goal is to get people to side with you and do so with enthusiasm, and leaving people hanging for a couple of weeks while waiting to see if he can come off of the ropes next time just doesn’t make sense. It’s also (IMO) highly unlikely that he’ll reverse the dynamics enough next time, because Romney is not prone toward overconfidence that would lead to lack of preparation. I think they’ll appear more evenly matched next time and Obama may even win it but I doubt it will be the kind of knockout that would be needed to justify the rope-a-dope strategy.

    One more point- last night was on the economy, an issue where Romney starts with some inherent advantages but hasn’t been able to capitalize on them to date. Anyone believeing that Obama would intentionally allow Romney to gain a foothold there, IMO, is really reaching.

  • dduck

    And, Tyson, goes down. But he made it to Broadway and I can’t remember the guy who won that fight. Yes, Obama will probably win the next round, and the tie breaker will be the third.
    My question is, will the Bengazi killings and the Rice sacrifice, which has started to hit the MSM: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/03/opinion/dowd-complicity-in-duplicity.html do any harm to Obama in the debate that covers national security?
    I couldn’t believe I was reading Maureen Dowd, I thought it was David Brooks.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I also think a boxing match is a great analogy and with all my heart I hope you are right on your analysis, Dr. E.

    As you say, the stakes are high — very high — and Obama needs to bounce back right away, even before the next round.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Great read…Dr.E. you captured the perfect analogy with boxing…Also ‘boxing match’ is perfect for the build up to the debates as well as the pounding of the punditry…Fighting and politics they are similar energetics…. thanks

    Just for fun few sound bites from the transcript of THE FIGHT aired on The American Experience PBS with Joe Louis and Max Schmeling…

    When politcs is boxing and boxing is politics:

    NARRATOR: They came from nothing yet each did what he had to survive.

    TRUMAN GIBSON, Joe Louis Attorney: Nobody knew how deeply Joe really felt, at an early age he learned to suppress emotions. He never really showed them.

    GEORGE von der Lippe, Professor, St. Anselm College: If I had a theme for Max’s life, it would be that he’s a survivor. He adapts to the situation, he adapts to the people he’s dealing with.

    JEFFREY SAMMONS, Historian: He could not gloat over opponents. He could not be seen in public with white women. He had to be seen as a Bible reading, mother loving, god fearing, individual, and not to be too black.

    VOLKER KLUGE, Sports Journalist: He was loyal to his government. But this loyalty had a high price. He had to burden his conscience with the dark sides of the regime.

    NARRATOR: When they met in the ring, they were the reluctant symbols of their people…

    VERNON JARRETT, Writer: We invested so much in Joe Louis … He was our nonviolent, violent way of expressing ourselves.

    NARRATOR: –and of their nations, in the shadow of war.

    JACK NEWFIELD, Writer: as Joe Louis found himself drafted to be the symbol of democracy and America, Schmeling found himself conscripted to be the symbol of Aryan supremacy… they were prisoners of politics.

    NARRATOR: They would fight only twice, but their rivalry would captivate the world; and by the time they were done, no one would ever forget them.

    DAVID: They were like Lewis and Clark or Sacco and Vanzetti. History brought Joe Louis and Max Schmeling together and in history they’ll always be together.

  • CStanley

    Some support for my take on this:
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/obama-no-ali-in-debate.html

    @ordinarysparrow- help me understand….it seems like your comment makes the boxing analogy fit because this is all about race. Is there some other point there that I’m missing?

  • dduck

    CS, I took the JL, MS, fight to be the U.S. way of life against the Nazi regime and philosophy strongly based on eugenics.

  • ordinarysparrow

    No, C Stanley that is yours to parse, i did not go into race nor was that my intent, but merely the debates are like boxing matches from many angles. The fighters/politicians, the narrators/pundits and fans/voters.. some boxing matches are also politically flavored.

    Not suggesting they are over lay over in content, but rather looking at the energetic similarity.

    Overall i feel Dr.E. was spot on with the boxing analogy and there are a number of layers which apply…

  • ordinarysparrow

    Dr. E……If you feel it is inappropriate or touching anything that is unseemly or racist in any way please remove it…not my intent…

    I was reading and being with this piece energetically more than content… which is my goofy tendency…

    Thanks for checking it out my intent C.Stanley

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    For whatever it’s worth,O.S., you are OK with me — very OK.

    Nothing to remove, nothing to apologize for.

    As usual, stuff like this is all in the eye of the beholder, or as they say in that Freedom Fries language, “Honi soit qui mal y pense”

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Ordinary Sparrow, no need whatsoever for apology. I am laughing, there is nothing racist about your quotes. As our grandmothers used to say, sometimes we look at the same thing; some see wings, others see horns.

    I liked your pull-quotes and learned from them. Thank you. Coming from the lower working classes like you and I do, boxing has been the paycheck-sport of the poor, with often white promoters for decades until recent times. Huge numbers of boxers have been and are poor blacks, poor latinos and poor whites– unless or until one in a million might win a titleweight bout. Commentary on blacks and latinos and whites was the commentary of the times. The reality, was often ugly, as we know. The exploitation of the poor by promoters and others, such as betting cartels, profound.

    I’m following through to write about boxing more now as a metaphor for this vapid 2012 election process that begins to make us all feel like we’re being beaten about the head and shoulders by platitudes, as dduck said so well. Platitude: from the french, for FLAT commentary, flat insight, flat petty bs. Surely flatulence must have come from this word somehow. lol. I hope some of you are laughing with me.

  • dduck

    You’re as gas, dr.e. Do they say that anymore?

  • ordinarysparrow

    Thanks Dr.E. and Dorian…truly appreciate both of you… life is a continuing learning experience following the leads from TMV…

    Today this post took me to watch a PBS documentary on the ‘Lucha Libre’ wrestling sport of Mexico…playing with it energetically kept moving back to this post…This month PBS Voices is featuring a four-part series showcases Latino artists, athletes and performers.

    (The Tales of Masked Men) might add to and stretch the political metaphor… If you have have time, think you would appreciate the masks, mythology, and history.

    http://video.pbs.org/program/voces-2012/

  • CStanley

    Glad i asked because i see your angle now. Certainly no need to apologize, and even if a racial angle had been the point of your comment, i was only seeking a better understanding, not criticism or complaint.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    The men you mentioned OSparrow are called Luchadores. It means more than wrestler. It means ‘to struggle.’ As such it carries dual meaning especially for many mestizos like us who are descendents of tribal groups and carry Eu blood too as a result of an enormous conquest over our ancestral lands throughout what are now called ‘the Americas.’

    La MAScara (emphasis on first syllable_) is holdover from the Nahua (Europeans called our tribes by a name they themselves didnt use: Aztecs) rituals of wearing regalia, including masks for ceremony. Havent seen the PBS shows yet and dont know if they go into ‘the underlying culture beneath the culture’ of the ceremonial in this sport, but thanks for mentioning this. I had recorded one last week, but didnt realize there re three more. Alrighty then.