A Far Better Man

479px-Muhammad_Ali_NYWTS

Twenty years ago, I didn’t think he’d make it.

Twenty years ago, The Greatest proved me wrong. And in doing so, he brought tears to my supposedly jaded eyes. Just when I thought there was nothing else Muhammad Ali could do to make me like him all the more, the night he lit the Olympic torch at the beginning of the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta made me take note, once again, of the greatness of The Greatest.

I remember watching on television, worried that he might not make it up the platform, watching the tremors the Parkinson’s disease had wreaked upon this once great physical specimen, the champion boxer. As he drew closer, it was as if I was trying to will him from long distance to make it all the way. It’s easy for me to say now, that I never should have doubted. Not with The Greatest. Writing these words and remembering that moment has actually brought those long buried tears back to my eyes.

I was out last night when I got the news that Muhammad Ali had passed away at the age of 74. For me, in a year filled with losses of those we considered great, this was the largest loss of them all. He meant so much to my people, but he meant a lot to a lot of people, regardless of race. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate him all the more—way more than just a great boxer, but as a great man. When I spread the news, the room I was in became silent for a brief moment.

When I was younger, I was in possession of a book about Muhammad Ali and his life. Not just the boxing career-a man in full. It may have been Thomas Hauser’s Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times, but I’m not sure. All I know is I wish I knew where that book is now. I would love to leaf through that book, even now. Back then I loved the pictures, but I also loved reading the story about the man. How he won the titles, but also stood up for what he believed in. How he became so revered and so famous, from being so reviled and despised in his stance against being drafted to go fight in Vietnam. How he lost his title, and couldn’t fight for three years in his prime. And how his resilience found him winning the title back from George Foreman.

Yes, he talked a lot. My mother didn’t like him talking, and I think that’s where I got the notion that talent should speak for itself. But I didn’t mind his talking, because time after time he backed it up. I was watching the night he took the heavyweight title back from Leon Spinks, hoping that would be it for him. But like a lot of athletes, he hung around too long, and the punishment took its toll on him, ultimately resulting in Parkinson’s disease. And as great as he was inside the boxing ring, he was much greater outside of it. A man to be revered, honored, respected and loved. I’m so lucky that I was able to share the planet with such a man.

A far better man I don’t think I will ever see.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

He is The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.

RIP

 

24 Replies to “A Far Better Man”

  1. Thank you Twin! I love this post! It makes me think of my childhood in the early 1970’s and how important Muhummad Ali was to all of us!

    Like your mom, my mom didn’t like all the talk but I LIVED for it! I still do. Many have said that he was actually speaking reality into existence-especially when he would tell his opponent the exact round that he would go down!

    Hmmmm, was it Muhammad manifesting his desires or was it a mind game that he successfully played on his opponents? We’ll never know that but I have my own speculations.

    When I heard of his passing, I just said to myself, “Well that’s it…the good ones from my youth are almost all gone!”

    Thanks again! Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!
    Gwin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Twin! I was going to write about something else but I just couldn’t help but put out a few words about someone so significant in sports, culture and society and what he meant to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you did because he meant so much to so many of us. He took a very strong and unpopular stand at a time when it could have cost him his life.
        Boxing aside, how can you NOT respect a man like that?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You can extend that to most entertainers as well!
        It’s easy to be all controversial in your lyrics but it’s another thing to tell the Federal Government, which saw you as a second class citizen, that you ain’t going nowhere to kill nobody!
        What did Stevie say, “They had me standing on the front line.” hmmmm!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely Tribute T. Also my condolences to all who feel this loss. It seems such a distant memory when I think was watching the old boxing matches. But as you say Muhammed Ali was much more than the sport. PEACE! Chevvy

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Wonderful tribute and heartfelt sentiment to a GREAT man. I can remember that when he first came on the scene; when Floyd Patterson was THE MAN. My father, like most southern folks of that generation, preferred the quiet, deferring demeanor of Floyd over the loud boisterous Cassius. They rooted for Floyd over Clay and they were disappointed that the “Louisville Lip” had “shook up the world” but I, for one was secretly and quietly glad.

    I think that, during those days, those sentiments about this fight, represented a microcosm of the varying attitudes of society–especially “Negro” society–about race, race relations and the dichotomy of how the Black man viewed himself within that society e.g.:

    King v Malcolm
    Nationalism v Intergration
    Non-violence v Militancy
    Christianity v Islam

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Ron, for this awesome comment. Like you, I find that many older folks did not like him talking the way he did. And now that you mention it, it does frame those discussions of how Blacks viewed themselves in society in that time. It is awesome to just take in just how much change was going on during the Civil Rights era—both in the consciousness of people of color as to how they were going to be defined and the respect they had to get from people. The gains were hard-won, but they were gains. We all owe people like Ali a huge debt.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah T. He didn’t have to put himself out there like that, for US! That’s what makes him TRULY one of the GREATEST. Breaking down barriers…celebrities and athletes who do this should be the ones we hold up on pedestals. Not the self-aggrandizing ones so prevalent today.

        Danny Glover was blackballed because of his outspokeness

        Prince gave up his name to break chains the big record companies lock into artists

        Bill Russell was lambasted for SPEAKING out against injustice

        Harry Belafonte is still marching for justice and equality

        Paul Robeson also spoke out.

        Muhammad Ali is also among these stars

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa! It really has been a sad year when you think of all of the notable people who have passed away so far. And it just turned to June. I know famous and notable people die every year, but this year seems particularly difficult because of the icons these people were.

      Liked by 1 person

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