Saturday, June 4, 2016

To Absent Friends - Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
b. Cassius Clay

When the news arrived of the death of Muhammad Ali yesterday at the age of 74, I knew that I would be sitting down to write about the death of this Absent Friend, but I was overwhelmed by the thought of it.  How does one summarize the life of one of the most impactful and transformative persons of the late twentieth century, and what could one possibly say?

How about the lead paragraph of the front page story in today's Post-Gazette by Rick Bozich:

He called himself The Greatest, and if you followed the entire show, you understood that it was the most understated thing that Muhammad Ali ever said.

Or this from President Obama:

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age—not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

Or this memory posted on Facebook today by my friend Fred Egler:

So many of our attitudes toward sports, media, minority rights and, yes, even foreign policy are rooted in what Ali did or said. There will never be another Muhammed Ali - and we are all a little bit poorer today for his passing.

Without doubt, Ali was one of, if not THE, most recognizable persons in all of the world, yet, as Bozich's column in the PG states today, if you are 40 years old or younger, you never knew the Ali that so many of us know.  You never saw him fight, never saw him dance, may never have even heard him speak.  If you fall among that group, make it a point to watch all of what will surely be all over the news in the days ahead.  His was a life that is and will continue to be worth knowing.

And how can you write about Muhammad Ali without including this photo, perhaps one of the most iconic sports photos of all time:

Ali defeats Liston

And some other photos of The Champ to show just what a world figure he was:

RIP Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it....and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace." —President Obama

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