RIP The Great Muhammad Ali

I haven’t much to add to the flood of trributes already up on the net, except to say that I remember how beautiful he was and remained despite the ravages of illness, but most of all the inspiration we took from Ali’s courageous refusal to bow to the injustices of racism and the Vietnam War. It seems at once so long ago and like only yesterday. Good night, sweet prince.

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17 thoughts on “RIP The Great Muhammad Ali

  1. One of the best, by far. I think my favourite memory is Ali lighting the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 games.

    Who else remembers this when it came out in the mid-70s?

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  2. When I was a kid, what I knew of Ali (from contemporary happenings) was was his reputation as a fighter and his give-and-take with Cosell, which I was really too young to understand. (And, let me just say even from [or because of] my retrospective kid perspective, I still have all the less respect for Brent Musburger in light of Cosell.) In school I learned about Ali a little — glossing over the “name change” and all “that.” It wasn’t until later that I learned more about and could really appreciate what he did in standing up against the war. Still, today, when kids learn about him, I don’t think he’s presented as an anti-war hero. We don’t really have those in America. He’s presented more as a great boxer and civil-rights activist (fairly), but no one dwells on how the struggle for equal rights and freedom movement intersects with opposition to wars overseas. Anyway, he and Desmond Doss have always been people I admire greatly and I wouldn’t even have the inclination or whatever to admire them if I hadn’t been born when I was and Ali wasn’t so visible and controversial still (well into the 70’s). My parents respected him — especially as a fighter, but I certainly didn’t get a bunch of he’s a hero for standing up for his principles or he was a great activist to admire from them. Time gives us different views.

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    • Growing up in far east Texas in the early ’60’s, I was part of a culture that absolutely reviled Ali. He was against the War! He wouldn’t fight! He converted to Islam! He was a black man who spoke up! (shudders) Coming to appreciate Ali was of a piece with with the progress by which I rejected the values of the culture in which I was raised. (A process which I doubt I will live to complete)

      What jumped out about him was his humanity, in all its flaws. He was egocentric. He was more than half a con man, and never to be trusted too much. But he was a boxer of amazing skills, and became to me very much a symbol of all the transitions our society made through the ’60’s and ’70’s. There was an innate simplicity in the man that reached out of that TV and grabbed us when we saw him.

      For all the tributes he will receive, he was more of a presence in our society than anyone can say in a simple summary.

      Recquiescat in Pace, Cassius (if I may). You touched us all.

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      • Amusingly, my dad hated his time in Korea and never seemed to hold Ali’s refusal to serve against him. The race thing, though, kept him from admiring Ali. He was from Indiana, fwiw. I think he didn’t say negative things about Ali because he felt his skills lived up to his talk. That part he did admire.

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    • If I can bother you, is the Musberger comment because of what he said about Tommy Smith and John Carlos, or did the shithead say something bad about Ali too?

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      • I’m not over the ’68 Olympics. Musburger still owes an apology for some of the things he said. He needs to acknowledge some growth and remorse. But, I suspect he’s had none.

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        • I can’t believe he’s still in broadcasting after what he said. And he’s never apologized either.

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        • No, and it makes me sick when they act like he’s one of the old great ones in sports broadcasting. I hope he knows what a terrible racist he was/is and that even if he can’t acknowledge publicly that what he did was wrong and harmful and a betrayal of his public position, he regrets it. Unlike those guys and Ali, he’s a coward because he isn’t brave enough to do what’s right in this moment. So, who turned out to be the one with bad character? I wish someone had the nerve to ask him about his thoughts on his words today.

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        • The night of his first fight with Frazier, the fight of the century, I had the headphones of of my dad’s hand assembled Heath kit stereo on, listening for the first results. Even though I was then a child of an all white affluent suburb I didn’t understand the hateful voices. They mocked his name change from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Instead of noticing how he had fought on through pain, they celebrated his swollen jaw.

          What I saw was that when Henry Cooper flattened him with a left hook he came up swinging at the count of two. When Joe Frazier flattened him with a left hook he came up surviving at the count of two. Nothing but courage. I guess all they saw was a nigger Muslim.

          When I heard their mindless hatred that night something inside of me turned for good.

          Muhammad Ali, not the smartest or even just the best, just the Greatest.

          And all the rest of us, whatever it is we choose.

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