"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Forever The Greatest

tn_aliWe can’t really be shocked to hear that the great Muhammad Ali passed away today, but it still feels wrong. The champ lived almost as long with Parkinson’s as without, so he seemed unstoppable. He’d long since lost his incredible athleticism, his quick wit, his big mouth, and yet he kept going. He was out there, showing up in public every once in a while to pass the Olympic torch, receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, attend the inauguration of the first black president, make himself known as an American Muslim, or tweet happy birthday to The Rock.

Until today we could still call him a living legend. Even outside of professional boxing his adventures were unparalleled. He had a gold medal (which he threw into the Ohio River after being disgusted with the racism he experienced at home – some dude found it in 2014!). He inspired the song “The Greatest Love of All.” He was a Wrestlemania referee. He had a cartoon where he went to space. He fought tooth decay. He fought Superman! (Don’t worry, his mother’s name was Odessa.) But we admired him most for the true bravery of living from his conscience, putting his career and reputation on the line to oppose the Vietnam War, to go public as a Muslim, and to speak out about racism, even if it bummed out Sly Stone on that ridiculously uncomfortable episode of The Mike Douglas Show.


mp_thegreatestThat’s one part of why people like me, who truly don’t give a shit about boxing, will watch documentary after documentary about Ali, and consider him an American hero and Bruce-Lee-level inspiration to strive for excellence.

Another part: the dude was hilarious. His rhymes, his boasts, his taunts, his comic timing, all top shelf. How likely is an athlete to have that charming of a personality, let alone the greatest athlete? It never happens, except this one time. Imagine if it was normal for athletes to be that entertaining instead of just mumbling something about thanking God for a game.

Of course, this doesn’t change anything for us. We will continue to praise and admire and remember Muhammad Ali just like we always did. I wrote about him a few times in the past:

FREEDOM ROAD is the 1979 mini-series he starred in with Kris Kristofferson. He plays a former slave who gets educated and becomes a senator, a really cool role to see Ali in. (I said on Twitter that this was his only acting role, but of course I was forgetting about THE GREATEST, the TV movie where he plays himself. I don’t have a review of that one though. Sorry.)

I do have a review of WHEN WE WERE KINGS, I believe the only documentary to make the original Badass 100 list. I’m sure you know about that one, but if you haven’t seen it, seriously, do it. (I also highly recommend the companion piece SOUL POWER, but that’s about the music festival side of Zaire 74, so he’s only in it incidentally.)

And finally I want to recommend the documentary FACING ALI, which is a really different look at him because it’s told through the perspective of a bunch of people he fought. (Unfortunately Superman did not participate, but it’s still good.) By showing him sometimes in a negative light it ends up being all the more powerful of a tribute.

I can’t really recommend my review of ALI, but I remember the movie being pretty good, despite the weirdness of seeing Will Smith’s face on Muhammad Ali. I’m sure we’ll all be watching that again, huh?

Anyway, thank you Ali for all you did, and all your memory will continue to do.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 4th, 2016 at 2:37 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “Forever The Greatest”

  1. He visited my town , Ennis in Ireland, around 4-5 years ago to get a freedom of the town thingy as his grand dad came from here. The place was buzzing. The crowds lined the streets for him and he seemed to love it. RIP big man.

  2. As far as celebrity death this year, this takes the cake. All but one of the trending topics on Twitter right now are about him, not that it is the ultimate barometer of these things but that shows you how powerful his name and legend were. Sports, politics, entertainment, religion, he was a force which affected all these things so deeply.

    I know it seems trite to link a bit from a stand-up comedian but this is one of my favorite Carlin bits not just for the humor but the simple statement he makes about Ali’s rejection to go to Vietnam. It’s one of the things that I can point to that helped shape whatever there is of a social consciousness I possess.

    George Carlin - Muhammad Ali / America the Beautiful

    From the Class Clown album, recorded May 27, 1972 at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, released September 29, 1972

  3. What news to wake up to.

    Some of my very earliest memories are of him, larger than life, on my Grandfather’s TV screen. Whatever it was – fighting, talking, we watched him together. I can even recall, as a little kid, staying up late to watch him fight.

    My Grandfather idolized him (shared the same name and also, in his younger days, looked just like him, as well) and that made me idolize him, too.

    He was always more than a man to me – he seemed superhuman. And I think he kinda was.

    A fighter in every possible sense of the word, poet, icon, activist, straight up hero – he was all of that, and so much more.

    He always will be.

    Thank you, Muhammad.

  4. For fans of pro wrestling it’s hard to talk about Ali without mentioning how big of an influence Ali and wrestling had with each other. It’s a story that most sports and non-sports people are probably never going to mention but Ali vs Antonio Inoki is often thought about as one of the very first MMA fights. What a giant Ali was and the world is better for him living in it.

  5. Yet another one that hit harder than I thought it would, guess too many deaths of artists and people and I personally know.

    I don’t have much to add. I grew up in a world where he was long past his physical prime but his legend was so big, even we didn’t see him as some ex-athlete or some ex-celebrity now with Parkinsons. At least in my circle of friends.

    I enjoyed the Will Smith movie and never got around to watching the director’s cut version of it so may as well make time for it now. After I re-read v. Superman and re-watch When We Were Kings, that is.

  6. Muhammad Ali made me a better person. Words like ‘inspiration’ and ‘hero’ and such get thrown around when we think about icons, when we reflect on recently deceased iconoclasts, when we engage in the Great Man Theory approach to our conception of history, but here is a person who transcended all that because he walked the walk as much as he talked the talk. He was not flawless, but he demonstrated for us all how to be a badass who transcends any flaws and any unjust laws, how to embrace our individuality even if The Man didn’t approve. He was too radical and too much a particular product of his time to be declared unimpeachably great in every way, and yet he was The Greatest. He was a guy who dropped the mic every time one was shoved in his face.

    In my youth, I saw & enjoyed the voluminous ESPN footage of him dominating in the ring. When I went to college, I saw the hilarious popularity of Ali’s visage on various uplifting dorm room posters. When the biopic & documentaries came out, for a couple hours at a time I became an Ali scholar. Yet my main takeaway from my joyous exposure to arguably the greatest athlete of all time is that he was one of the funniest motherfuckers of all time. Muhammad Ali is my favorite comedian.

    Dude talked so much shit. He talked So. Much. Shit. And the broadcast news covered it. It was beautiful.

    I borrow that overconfident ethos whenever I visit the basketball court, the baseball/softball field, the poker table, the fight mat, whatever. I don’t know if I’m a better athlete because of it, but I do know I’ve had more fun & more success doing sports & living life than I would have if Ali hadn’t been a presence. I do know that there have been times I’ve been against the proverbial ropes, taking a beating, and yet I found a way to bounce forward and punch my way to victory. When I turn 74, I shall talk trash to the ghost of Muhammad Ali and challenge myself to outlast him. When I turn 75, I’m gonna point & shake my fist and hover over him.

  7. Sternshein – Ali was effectively Ric Flair before Ric Flair, selling out fights with promos aimed at whipping up (white) people to buy tickets (or go to theaters and watch on close-circuit TV) just hoping somebody will shut him up finally.

    I know WWE for many years now has been trying to produce a Gorgeous George biopic, and considering their output I’m not exactly hoping for much if it ever happens, but you know one of the powerhouse scenes will be young Cassius Clay mentally taking notes after meeting the original pro wrestling “heel.”

  8. Be in peace Great One. Left behind such an immaculate legacy that you’ll remain immortal.

  9. Don’t forget the greatest tribute to Ali ever:

    And on the subject of his wrestling interactions, this video’s been doing the rounds the last few days:

  10. Vern, did you really have to boot someone for complaining you posted this instead of a goddamn X-man review?

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