Impossible is Nothing.
This Friday, the world bids their final farewell to greatest athlete of all time. How do I know that Ali was THEE greatest…because Wayne Gretzky said so.
As a young boy growing up in rural Saskatchewan, hockey was life. After a long day of shinny on the backyard rink, our family would tune into Hockey Night in Canada to watch 99 electrify with his gift. We’re talking about a man who boasts a career point total of 2,857. For perspective, let’s entertain that Mcdavid musters up 20 straight seasons of 140 points…that would still be shy of the Great one’s impressive mark. I could get on a Wangent, (Wayne tangent) but ain’t nobody got time for that. So, by the transitive property, when the Great One calls Ali the greatest: Game, Set, Match. While you are bound to find a more comprehensive read on his life and legacy elsewhere, I’d like to share a few snippets that resonated as the sports world reflected on his life.
Ali is widely regarded as the man who revolutionized the sport of boxing with his awe-inspiring combination of speed and power. How do I know such facts? Am I omnipresent? Do I even know what omnipresent means? The 3-time heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist was the youngest boxer to upset an incumbent champ when he defeated Liston in 1964. It is difficult not to ponder the further extent of his boxing accolades had he not been imprisoned and suspended during the height of his career. He claimed that he “ain’t got no quarrel with the VietCong.” The champ was not afraid to fight, rather he saw no sense in participating in a seemingly senseless war. They stripped him of his title and sentenced him to 5 year prison term. Watching old footage of him this past weekend, it is hard not to smile and delight in his wit, showmanship, confidence, and trash talk. While most people my age can recall his classic line “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” some other competition-fueled quotes that clung to me include:
“If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize”
“I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on”
“My only fault is that I don’t realize how great I really am”
“It’s not bragging if you can back it up”
“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”
With his unparalleled conviction and accompanying arming of expertise, it amazes me that anyone willingly decided to go 12 rounds with Muhammad. Even in his later years he claimed that he was to “eat more raw meat and chop more trees” in preparation for what would be his final bout.
I am also utterly fascinated with the contributions he made in the field of music. In 1963, Ali released a spoken word album called ‘I am the Greatest’ which included a cover of ‘Stand by Me’ that reached #61 on the charts. He later received a Grammy nomination for the children’s pro dental hygiene novelty record entitled ‘The Adventures of Ali and his Gang vs. Tooth Decay.’ I $#!~ you not, imagine the legend dropping a dizzying audio assault about the dangers of gingivitis. Historians maintain that if you were to play track 2 of the record backwards, you can actually hear what many claim to be the sound of Satan receiving a root canal. Had I not ‘opted’ out of my Columbia House subscription after receiving the initial set of complimentary albums, I would have totally snagged this collection of hygiene hits.
Akin to Jackie Robinson shattering baseball’s racial barrier in 1947, Ali is heralded as a transcendent American sports icon. He was a vocal campaigner for civil rights and inspired countless with his commitment to human rights. Having been the subject of 10 films, Ali is the only star on the wall and not on the sidewalk on Hollywood’s famous walk of fame. I encourage you to further explore his glory as I leave you with a few other quotes that illuminate his greatness:
“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”
“The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
“When it comes to love, compassion, and other feelings of the heart, I am rich.”
“If Ali says a mosquito can pull a plow, don’t ask how. Hitch him up.”
Yours in Freshness,