Death of an Icon
A few days ago Muhammad Ali died at age 74. For years, Ali had battled Parkinson’s Disease, which may have been a contributing factor in his death. What amazes me about the man, is how he defied the Selective Service with his refusal to participate in the military and how he defiantly thumbed his nose at mainstream America with his Islamic name change, yet he still was able to pursue his professional sports career and eventually become a World Champion. Now matter how you look at his life, it is an amazing story and one of the great cultural phenomena of the twentieth century.
Memories of Cassius Clay
I have a confession to make. I have never been a big fan of professional boxing, for the sport has always been a bit too barbaric for my tastes. Still, this attitude has not stopped me from following the sport, at least to the point, where I know who is fighting who.
And it all started back in 1964, when Cassius Clay took on Sonny Liston. Liston was the champ and most observers thought he would demolish Clay. Clay was commonly known as the “Louisville Lip”, and at the time no one expected such a brazen person to be any good in the ring. Both groups were proven wrong, as Clay demolished Liston in six rounds.
The day after the fight with the support of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
“Writing is like fighting” attributed to Muhammad Ali
However, for me, the most memorable part of the fight was that I listened to the play-by-play action on the radio, for in those days that was how many live sporting events were covered. Radio sports has faded away these days to almost nothing, replaced by the ever present cable TV sports networks. Granted, there are lots of colorful and entertaining sports commentators these days, but nothing can quite replace the mental process the radio listener had to go through, as he (or she) created mental images from the words of the announcer that came poring out from your radio. In a way it is kind of like writing.
Muhammad Ali, the Survivor
Unlike other brash men of his era, Muhammad Ali survived, even after declaring himself a Conscientious Objector to the Vietnam War and joining the church of Islam. This is simply amazing and there is no way to easily explain this except by taking a look at how much admiration our society directs towards sports heroes.
Quotes by Muhammad Ali
If you have checked around the web since Muhammad Ali died, you will find many tributes with a frequent observation, how Ali with his quick wit and acid tongue was in reality a forerunner of the rap and hip hop movements that emerged through the final years of the 20th century. Following is a selection of ten quotes that will give you a gist of what these commentators are talking about.
“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”
“I’m so mean. I make medicine look sick.”
“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”
“A man who has no imagination has no wings.”
“It’s just a job. Grass, grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”
“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”
“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
“I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”
And of course last but not least is Ali’s famous quote about the butterfly and the bee.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”