Yesterday, like many Americans, I awoke to hear the news of the passing of Muhammad Ali. Tributes came from all corners; there was a moment of silence before a NASCAR race and the Pittsburgh Penguins-San Jose Sharks hockey game.
My exposure to Ali and his career was mostly after the fact. The Ali I saw with my own eyes was the man whom the sport that made him a legend, made him a shell of himself. I did not see the man who battled with Joe Frazier and George Foreman; I saw the man whose trembling hands lit the torch at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Now many may say that Ali may have been the first modern athlete. I am sure athletes have been talking trash for as long as there has been competition, Ali did it with a style all of his own. It is interesting that the athlete that reminds me most of Ali in many ways is a competitor in the sport that has possibly surpassed boxing as the main combat sport, mixed martial artist Conor McGregor.
But Ali was more than just an athlete, he was also an activist. As a younger person, he was likely a public voice of the civil rights movement, and perhaps a growing activist wing within in. His career was put on hold for three years because he refused to fight in the Vietnam War, a war that he saw perhaps as unjust and unnecessary.
In later years, before his career truly took its toll on him, he was a sort of global ambassador. Who can forget his remarks during the telethon for 9-11.
It is not too often that it can be said there will never another like a person. That may be able to be said about a man of whom the title “The Greatest” may apply.