(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Mass-Blog-Movie-Review-Extra-George-Foreman.mp3)
I took the family to see “Big George Foreman,” a biopic about this man’s boxing career. By the end it tells us about more than that. There are good lessons for any of us battling rage and ego throughout our lives. All of us, in other words.
Foreman grew up in a neighborhood with two kinds of people: predators and prey. He dedicated himself to becoming the former. But before that dedication could entrap him in a life of crime, he found boxing. In that world his rage became an asset. It helped him become a champion.
Then he met Muhammad Ali in a championship ring, and he taught George something else about himself.
George discovered his worst enemy in that ring, and it wasn’t Ali. Ali would eventually become his friend by rope-a-doping him. He let Foreman waste his strength lashing out at him while Ali rested on the ropes. Once George was exhausted, Ali went in for the “kill.”
Good lesson about wasted energy. But a more important one about invested energy soon comes when Foreman’s little niece is dying, and this family that had depended on him for financial support suddenly needs an asset in which his ego refuses to invest: prayer.
A previous scene when George was at the height of his boxing prowess showed him and his extended family sitting down to dinner. As he’s ready to dig in, his mother asks him to lead them in giving thanks. “What for?,” he asks, “I’m the one who put the food on the table.”
So here he is in a situation where his wealth can’t save his ailing niece. God rope-a-dopes him into a corner, and he succumbs to prayer. She’s soon cured. This shows him a power source outside himself, and he channels it into ministry. He becomes a championship preacher.
But he soon gets rope-a-doped again—this time by his ego. After one particularly showy display of preaching, a mother brings her young teenage boy to him for counseling. The kid is just starting down the path where he’s being forced to make the same life choice George made at his age: predator or prey? But George prefers giving the kid an autograph instead of his time, and the boy chooses the path leading to becoming a headline on the 6 o’clock news.
George realizes he found a way to lose in a new arena. Soon he seeks forgiveness from opponents past and present—including Ali. This true spirit of repentance turns him from dime-store preacher to counselor of boys being rope-a-doped into lives of crime. He finds a way to use boxing as a tool to build discipline rather than to channel rage.
As the credits roll, pictures from the life of the real George Foreman document his varied career paths. Some of them depict the fruits of his greatest learning: that the choice between becoming predator or prey is a false one. This reflects a wisdom as ancient as the prophet Isaiah, who anticipated a time when wolves, leopards, lions and snakes would coexist with lambs, goats, calves and children (Isaiah 11).
Maybe we can use Isaiah’s prophetic wisdom to rope-a-dope this world’s artificial intelligence as it tries beating us into submission. Just keep standing as you learn your opponent’s weaknesses. Wisdom always wins by the 15th round.