Saturday, June 04, 2016
The Greatest Of All Time
Last night, a Facebook friend of mine -- Joe -- asked me what reasons would a referee have to stop a fight. I told him, and then the conversation turned to Muhammad Ali. News reports had been going all day about the world's best known boxer health. "I don't think Ali's going to make it," Joe wrote. I wrote back, "Ali has came back from health scares before. But this one feels different. You may be right." About ten minutes later, news broke that the man known as The Greatest Of All Time had passed on. Everything stopped. Normally, I would up for hours on a Friday night. I shut off the computer, and went to bed, depressed.
Today, no one showed up for class at the gym. It felt a little like a tomb, which was appropriate. I had remarked to some staff members that if I had flags in the gym, I would have had them at half-mast. On one of the bulletin boards, I have a picture of Ali up along with his training routine when he was an active boxer. I had contemplated taking that as well as other items off that board after the summer camp kids picked at it all last summer. But I've changed my mind. I got a pen and added the date of Ali's death underneath his birth date.
When I was six or seven years old, word spread through the housing project that I lived in that Ali was on the premises. In a lot of places, Ali was still being referred to as Cassius Clay, his given name. That's what my mother called the boxer as she ordered me to keep watch at the window to catch him coming out. Ma had a crush on Ali. She went off on me when Ali never appeared, accusing me of not paying attention. He may have left out of another entrance. Perhaps he wasn't at the building at all. But the mention of the man's presence was enough to get people -- including Ma -- excited.
Alan told me he met Ali in downtown Chicago. They both were crossing the street, Ali from one side and Alan from the other. As they approached, Ali caught Alan's eye and got into a boxer's crouch. Alan responded in kind, and they approached each other as if they were going to fight. Alan told me that was an extremely fun moment. Larry, a guy I used to work with when I was employed by a social service agency, met Ali at a function. Larry was so taken by meeting the champ that he just stood there and cried, barely able to carry on a conversation with him.
What are we going to do without Muhammad Ali? Who is going to take his place? I thought to myself after hearing the bad news. Life will go on like it usually does. But there is absolutely no one who can step up to the plate and take Ali's position. The man was one of a kind, in and out of the ring. The world has truly lost someone.