Sunday, June 05, 2016

Rest in peace, Champ

The man gave up 3 1/2 years of his career, when he was at his physical peak, for his beliefs. He risked prison for his beliefs. He gave up millions and millions of dollars for his beliefs.

Today he's being mourned and revered. Yes, he was handsome and graceful and abundantly talented. Yes, he met the ravages an ugly affliction with a beautiful dignity.

But he wasn't always so beloved. I hear echoes of Ali's coverage when I was a little girl. In announcing the Champ's passing, 88-year-old Dodger announcer Vin Scully called him both "Muhammad Ali" and "Cassius Clay." He changed his name in 1964. While the rest of Scully's announcement was touching and respectful, it brought to mind other sportswriters (New York's Dick Young comes to mind) who insisted on referring to him as "Clay," as though the man's conversion to Islam was not sincere. Just a way to dodge the draft. Just more evidence that he was too brash, too black.

I look at this man and I see the story of my country's last 50 years. I'm proud of how far we've come -- a black man with an decidedly un-WASPy name is in White House -- and I'm grateful to the Champ for the role he played in leading us along.

The Greatest of All Time, indeed.



2 comments:

  1. I remember when the song about him was popular. I think, if I heard the song, I would be able to sing along.

    He was certainly a living legend.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was telling my husband that my dad always, during his boxing years, referred to him as "Clay", but he (Dad) loved to watch him box; he (Dad) used to say that much as he didn't condone self-PR like Ali did with such panache, what he said about himself wasn't really bad because it was totally true. He really was that skilled and good.

    And then after he retired and we all found out how ill he was, Dad eventually went over to calling him by his real name and praising him. My dad, the super-conservative Republican white guy, loved Muhammad Ali. And I came to admire him a great deal as well.

    ReplyDelete

Sorry about adding Comment Moderation, folks. But look at the bright side, at least I've gotten rid of word verification!