This Week's Metro Column...
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Up Goes Frazier!
By Brian Hickey
The former Heavyweight Champion of the World’s son had just taught me proper left-jab/right-cross delivery when the gym’s door opened. “The champ,” Marvis Frazier declared, “is here.” And the champ, Joe Frazier, declared he feels great for a 65-year-old with rock-solid abs, even if he can’t jump rope anymore.
I was there to right a civic wrong. Each time a fanny-packed tourist fawns over a bronzed fictional fighter, an angel loses its wings because there’s no tribute to a real brawler who beat a real Apollo Creed.
It’s a story that bubbles up often, but disappears quickly. I didn’t want that to happen again, so I explained that local guy Tim McCloskey emailed me with an idea: Get SEPTA to rename the rejuvenated Broad and Glenwood station for the guy whose dusty, up-for-sale gym sits across the street.
“Joe Frazier was once the baddest man on the planet,” McCloskey said. “He should have a statue next to real, notable Philadelphians, like Ben Franklin.”
A call to SEPTA quickly exposed one reason why the lone public tribute is a South Carolina roadway. Policy blocks naming stations for people. What if City Council renamed surrounding blocks? “Frazier Avenue” leaves them no choice, other than saying honorary street names aren’t real. Well, Darrell Clarke’s district ends on the south side of Broad and Glenwood; Donna Reed Miller’s starts on the north. Getting Council to focus on anything other than Fiscal Doomsday is like getting Frazier to host an Ali birthday bash.
But, this is deeper than shout-out ethics. Six-figure tax delinquencies or not, it’s about marking the end of a seminal era in city sports. Joe Frazier’s Gym had every bit of impact as the Palestra, albeit for separate but equal people. The Fraziers couldn’t venture a guess as to how many kids learned respect within its walls. That our culture has shifted from fist battles to gun wars doesn’t lessen the impact Joe had.
“I’ve done my part, helping the kids in this gym. Boys, girls, white, black,” said Joe, Added Marvis, “You treated them all like they were your kids.”
Then, the hand that whooped Muhammad Ali signed “To Brian” on a neck brace before Joe said, “Maybe one day I’ll rip the [For Sale] signs down and get back to work.”
If he does, the city better host a party at, and SEPTA better run free trains to, the corner of Broad and Frazier.
It’s the least we can do for a non-fictional fighter who’s long deserved tourists visiting his honorary statue.
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Side note: I forgot to mention that new Flyers goalie Ray Emery had Frazier's likeness painted onto his helmet ...