Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Imperishable Wreathes: Philosopher Gordon Marino on Boxing's Police Athletic League Initiative to Fight Violence


“Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” St. Paul Corinthians 9:25

"In order to box you need to control your emotions, your anger and your fear. And the more in control you are of your emotions the less likely you are to do something mean or stupid." George Foreman

Gordon Marino is a boxer, philosopher, nationally syndicated writer and professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.  Today, Marino writes about the Police Athletic League and the Illinois Crime Commission's initiative to steer more young girls and boys away from the madness of the streets and into boxing centers around Chicago.  The goal is to place young people in a gym where they will exercise, learn the science of boxing and spar with men and woman who serve and protect - firefighters and police officers.

One of those centers is one floor above me, on second floor here, at Leo High School in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago.  Leo High School has provided this community with a Christ centered, safe, nurturing educational institution since 1926.  Leo High School has operated a boxing gym since the late 1990's and produced scores of amateur boxers, twenty-five of whom are Golden Gloves champions.One such boxer Tommy Hayes ( Leo 1999) is a professional heavyweight boxer with a record of 27-1.

Scores boxed, 25 won amateur titles, one has a distinguished professional record; thus, it is, like life.  All who competed won what St. Paul would call 'imperishable wreathes."  Imperishable wreathes are character, self control, courage and commitment.  Those who entered took away with them pride born of humility.  That is what George Foreman might call Toughness.  Toughness is not determined by how much pain one might dish out, but how much pain one can endure.

Gordon Marino in today's Huffington Post offers this challenge:

In a fresh Police Athletic League initiative police officers and firefighters will begin training in local gyms for a "Battle of the Badges;" that is a grand night of boxing between a team of fire fighters and police officers. Proceeds from the event will flow to police and firefighter charities as well to the Chicago Park District Boxing Program.
Mike Joyce, Director of the PAL Boxing Program, emphasized, "We want to expand our 1st Annual PAL boxing gala to include private businesses, faith based organizations, and organized labor unions. We are all in this together. We need to give these kids opportunities. We need to give them hope and a stake in the community. We want our kids to have the means to build up our neighborhoods, rather than tear them down."
A former fighter and coach of the Leo High School boxing team, Joyce explained that the most significant aspect of this effort is not to raise funds, though that is important as well, but to bring people together. "The key,"he noted, "is that police and firefighters will be training side by side with the kids, getting to know them, and acting as mentors."
There are currently 25 Chicago boxing centers and a handful of other PAL affiliated boxing facilities, but the plan is to add three gyms in the coming year and to increase the number of boys and girls lacing up the gloves and getting into shape.
It might seem counter intuitive to fight violence by teaching boxing. However, Hall of Famer George Foreman once put it this way, "In order to box you need to control your emotions, your anger and your fear. And the more in control you are of your emotions the less likely you are to do something mean or stupid."
Competition is a life challenge that kids can not learn at a keyboard, or through the controls of an X-Box.  Interestingly, the phrase used by  St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, a host of citizens known for, shall we say, licentious behavior - what happened in Corinth did not necessarily stay in Corinth - "competes in the games" comes from the Greek word agonizomai. (I learned this years ago in order to understand Milton's Samson Agonistes) - from which own word agony is derived. To compete requires agony which is very different from fear.

Fear is what creates meanness and stupidity - gun violence and savagery.  A boxer learns this without the need to turn to Milton.

Turn to Foreman, Ali, Marino, Joyce and above all St. Paul - those who compete win imperishable wreathes.

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