The Two Georges

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: October 16, 2010

There are no second acts in American lives.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

***image8*** ***image9***IOWA CITY (BASN) — George Foreman and George Steinbrenner were two influential sports figures who found themselves with two-part careers.

Throughout his first part of professional career, George Foreman imitated one of his boxing models — Sonny Liston — as he went through his career knocking people out with a scowl.

***image7***Foreman’s best years happened to overlap the great Muhammad Ali, who was looking to regain his title after his exile. So Foreman was often overshadowed by Ali and it would take some two decades later before Foreman would be truly recognize as a Great Champ in his own light.

After Joe Frazier defeated Ali, Frazier would fight a couple of less than exhilarating competition before facing Big George. Ali was angling for his own shot at Frazier, but Foreman got his chance first.

He would delivered a whoopin’ to Frazier as he knocked down Smokin Joe six times. His punches literally knocked Frazier off the ground and Howard Cosell yelled out his famous cry (“Down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier!!!”)

Foreman’s first act started to slide downhill when he lost to Ali in Zaire, allowing “The Greatest” to recapture his title seven years after it was stripped from him when he refused induction into the United States Army.

For the next three years, Foreman’s career went into limbo as he failed to get his rematch with Ali. He did fight Frazier one more time with Joe lasting three more rounds before being knocked out.

His first act ended in Puerto Rico when he lost a 12-round decision to Jimmy Young. In the locker room post fight, Foreman had visions of seeing Jesus and became reborn Christian as he left boxing.

As the years went on and Foreman began his ministry, no one ever suspected that Big George would come back.

If Foreman’s first act ended by his decision, George Steinbrenner’s act ended when he was caught paying a gambler to find dirt on David Winfield with whom he was dueling with.

Baseball suspended “The Boss” and the franchise that he bought back to championship glory was going through a dry period. In truth, many Yankees fans were simply glad to see Steinbrenner leave.

But both men made spectacular comebacks in their second acts, actually taking their original act to new heights.

For Steinbrenner, his first act was that of an executive who took complete control of his organization and while he managed to win four pennants and two world championships.

However, the inconsistency of his reign including firing managers after managers and nearly ruining the franchise. “The Boss” had rebuilt a hallow franchise to championship heights only to almost wreck the whole operation.

In 1993, Steinbrenner came back, but the team had changed. Having him on the bench for three years, Yankee management rebuilt the franchise, and put together talent that would form the basis of five championship and seven pennants from 1996 to 2009.

Big George’s comeback began in 1987 when the 38-year-old Foreman decided to fight to raise money for his ministry including working with a boxing gym. No one took the comeback seriously but Foreman did something unusual, he managed his career.

The first act featured the angry Foreman but the second act, he reinvented himself as the jolly elderly who just happened to box. But the facade hid a more determined Foreman who still had the inner meanness to prosper at the fight game.

More importantly, he had a game plan and the will to preserve against the boxing establishment. Foreman not only fought but he became a business man who not managed his boxing career but also work as a entrepreneur.

Who couldn’t forget the Foreman Grill?

On the night of November 5, 1994, the 45-year-old Foreman became the oldest man to win a Heavyweight title as he knocked out the undefeated Michael Moorer out in a fight that he was losing.

As for Steinbrenner, he changed as he realized that he had a good staff who put together a solid organization in his absence. The old “Boss” dominated every aspect of the operation but the new Steinbrenner allowed his staff more freedom, he changed the way he ran his beloved Yankee organization.

From 1996 to the present, the Yankees had only two managers. During his first reign, a manager was hired to be fired and in some cases like Billy Martin rehired many times over.

The Yankees resembled the Bronx Zoo as opposed to a baseball franchise in Steinbrenner’s first reign. But his second reign resembled a professional operation, taking full advantage of free agency to build a feared franchise.

His secret was that he wanted to win more than other owners and this was reflected in his successes and his excesses. As for Foreman, he ran his own career and his fate was in his hand.

This opened the door for others including Roy Jones, Jr. and Oscar De Hoya who now run their own promotional company.

Foreman and Steinbrenner had second acts that went beyond their first act.

Big George was one of many second bananas in the Ali era, but his comeback not only culminated in a second championship but he made himself into an American icon beloved by many.

As for “The Boss”, he allowed his staff to run his team as he paid the bill and the results were double the titles and double the pennants as before he was suspended.