Sunday, June 5, 2016

Muhammad Ali

There aren't too many giants left who walk the earth. Muhammad Ali was one such man. I was sad when I heard the news of his June 3 passing at the age of 74 but at the same time I wasn't. Ali was a man who lived his life in line with his beliefs and principles. I wish he had lived longer. However often times when someone passes our sadness is more about how we're affected and not the end of that person's life. Ali stood up at a time when it was much easier to duck and hide. He paid a price for that. Maybe it's always much easier to duck and hide. I don't know if the later battles Ali had against fellow boxing titans Frazier, Foreman, Holmes and Norton brought on or worsened his Parkinson's Disease. I do recollect that even pacifist relatives who were otherwise steadfastly opposed to boxing tuned in to watch an Ali bout. Ali was larger than life. Unfortunately most of my memories of Ali boxing were when his skills had already visibly deteriorated. But even then there was always a glimpse of the speed, grace and power that made him the Greatest, as he would have been the first to tell you. But more than the classic fights which I was mostly too young to remember what I remember about Ali is how he made people I knew, especially the men in my family, feel. Ali was a Black man who defiantly seized and kept the right to name himself. He made his own decisions about what was good and what wasn't. He made Black people feel good about being Black. This is still a controversial stance today. Ali said I'm not going to have a European name based in slavery because I'm not European. I'm going to love myself. And he refused to join a war he didn't believe in, even though he likely would have been kept far away from any danger. He threw away three years of his career at the top just to stand on principle. How many of us would do that? How many of today's athletes would make that sacrifice? Ali helped to start a change in how Black athletes were perceived, how they performed and how they were marketed, one that is still going on today. Ali wasn't perfect. None of us are. And certainly there are probably some people who were more comfortable with the aged man who could barely speak than the young brash "Mouth Of The South" who cut opponents up with verbal wit even quicker than he did with his fists. But for my money Ali truly was The Greatest.

I’m the greatest thing that ever lived! I’m the king of the world! I’m a bad man. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.
It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.
It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
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