Muhammad Ali died last night. I'm sure that all of social media will soon be awash in testimonials, and most of them will be over the top with high praise. I don't intend to fall into that trap. While Ali was perhaps the greatest athlete I have ever seen in my life and without question the greatest fighter, that's pretty much where the accolades should end.
Ali was a contemporary of Martin Luther King and the two were a universe apart from each other. The day that Cassius Clay embraced the Nation of Islam and its maniacally racist leader, Elijah Muhammad, Ali chose segregation over integration...King's words, not mine. Ali's relentless narcissistic chanting of "I'm the greatest of all time!!"...flew in the face of what most Americans wanted in their heroes. No one wanted their own children to develope such levels of self regard. When he decided that his "religious convictions" prevented him from fighting for his country, while allowing him to fight for money, well, most people didn't buy it.
Still, I was a seven year old kid living in New Orleans when he stood scowling and defiant over a fallen Sonny Liston in this iconic photograph. Over the next three years I watched most of his fights on our old RCA Victor black and white television in our cramped apartment. We always cheered for his opponents...Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Zora Folley, Jerry Quarry. It was like watching a man fighting little boys. Ali was a thing of beauty, graceful, perfectly built, with lightening fast hands. They didn't stand a chance. After the fights there was no salute to the fallen, only semi-poetic gloating.
So, I was no fan of Ali the man and will not engage in the revisionist history that will rise up over the next few days about him. But, I was amazed at Ali the fighter who actually was the greatest of all time. So that is how I will choose to remember him, a great and iconic boxer...and nothing more.
On a happier note, my sweet daughter finished her third year of teaching yesterday and this morning is headed to Short Pump to attend the baby shower of one of her best friends...which means that she will be staying here for the next two days. I fully intend to spoil her rotten.