I've been tagged, and I'm supposed to list 5 weird things about myself. Here's one: I cannot stop myself from watching any of the following Muhammad Ali bouts (on Classic ESPN). (1) The Thrilla in Manila (Ali v. Frazier, third and final fight) and (2) The rumble in the jungle, Ali v. Foreman, Zaire, Africa. I mean, amazing human drama. In the first, two titans hurling fists and heart at one another. In my eyes, it was the greatest sports contest. The intensity enveloped all who watched. I saw the fight on close-circuit feed at the old Chicago Amphitheater. My cousins and I paid good money to watch a screen. It was worth every penny. But here's the thing: after the fight (Ali won!) Ali bowed in gratitude, and when interviewed in his corner, thanked a lot of people, even his teachers in Louisville, Kentucky elementary school. That's big-hearted.
For many of us, Muhammad Ali was a movement, a social and, to some extent, as I realize it now, a spiritual phenomenon. He was a symbol of hope, an amazing man who took the steep road when he had the option not to. He went from the relative safety of Cassius Clay to the public glare of Muhammad Ali, a man who fought in the ring, but strove everywhere else against the scourge of racism, a man who dared to break the sculpted image. He was for me (the son of immigrant parents) an inspiration of confidence. His victories, I felt, were mine. I couldn’t have felt this way had it not been for his generosity. He is a reminder of how greatness coupled with selflessness has the power to effect countless people.