This Is My Son George. This Is My Other Son George...
Back when I was in college (a long time ago) ESPN used to air Friday Night Fights, a weekly show featuring non-title boxing matches. While I am not the biggest fan of boxing right now, back in the day I used to follow it fairly closely and usually got to catch the re-airing FNF after I got home from work (at Baskin-Robbins, one of the best places to work if you are a fan of snack foods). The first time a saw George Foreman, it was on this show, and I remember I was afraid of him. He was fighting the State Champ of Montana, whose name escapes me.
I knew who George Foreman was but had never actually seen him box. I knew he was a washed up fighter who was last seen getting pummeled by Mohammad Ali in the Congo when I was just a small boy. Still, even old and over the hill, he looked menacing. When the fight started, Foreman went to work, putting his head down and stomping his large and flabby body straight towards the State Champ of Montana, mindlessly and menacingly engaging his foe with all the dexterity and personality of a stone troll. He looked and fought like one of those cartoon mob flunkies, whose hat fell down over the eyes and never uttered a word other than "yes, boss." In the third or fourth round, he came out with a flurry of punches that knocked the State Champ of Montana into a daze, and the ref stepped in and stopped the fight.
After Foreman won the match and came ringside for the post-fight interview, I fully expected to hear the voice of that cartoon mob flunky, speaking in dull, emotionless monotone. Instead, I heard a standup comedian - a real charmer. The analyst asked George what motivated him to come out swinging in that last round, and he answered "There's a large pile of cheeseburgers in my dressing room, and I said to myself between rounds 'Boy, am I getting hungry. Let's beat the fool up so we can go backstage and eat!'" When asked if he wanted to say anything before the interview ended, Foreman looked at the camera and said "I want to say hello to my son George, my other son George, my daughter George, and my other son George."
The rest is history, as Foreman climbed his way back the ladder and defeated Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the world heavyweight title at age 45. He is probably better-known today as a pitchman, putting his name on the George Foreman Grill.
I thought of George Foreman today as I ran in the PF Chang's Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon. As we neared mile 8 and my buddy Brad (who had already run farther than he ever had before by two miles at this point) started to break down with leg problems, I had to dig deep inside me to keep my motivation up and thus keep Brad going. My mind came back home, to the kitchen, to where my little girl Sarah had baked me the most ginormous cupcake ever. She had gotten me something that she had seen on TV for Christmas, a giant cupcake kit (I don't know if George Foreman pitches it or not). This huge freak of confection has the same amount of cake in it as two dozen human-sized cupcakes - I know because when she mixed the batter, she split it into two halves, one of which made my giant cupcake and the other made two dozen of the other kind.
She had lovingly frosted it and decorated it for me. And there is sat in my kitchen waiting for me to finish this race and come home to share it with her. I thought of George - and of that cupcake - and kept going. Thank you George Foreman. And thank you little princess. You - and that gut-busting cupcake - are the wind beneath my wings.