The death of Muhammad Ali has had widespread reverberations through the world..
He was the ‘greatest of all time.’
Even for my area, there were local connections, as he had a training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, just down the road from home base..
His death has also brought an outpouring of emotion from those who knew him, knew of him, or just went back on YouTube and watched some of the most dramatic fights or loudest roars when he was in his prime.
But there may have been another reason he was as popular and meaningful for our time..
He was an political activist. He blended that activism and politics with sports and publicity..
“Part of Muhammad’s greatness was his ability to be different things to different people,” retired basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote on Facebook Saturday.
“To sports fans he was an unparalleled champion of the world, faster and smarter than any heavyweight before. To athletes, he was a model of physical perfection and shrewd business acumen. To the anti-establishment youth of the 1960s, he was a defiant voice against the Vietnam War and the draft. To the Muslim community, he was a pious pioneer testing America’s purported religious tolerance. To the African-American community, he was a black man who faced overwhelming bigotry the way he faced every opponent in the ring: fearlessly.”
Ali’s trash talk turned into action during the Vietnam War. He converted to Islam and abandoned Cassius Clay.. he actively fought during the Civil Rights movement. He shook the world.
In other words, he became the ultimate star before the era of Twitter and Facebook. He did what others could not do. And did it his way.
I think there is something to be said for HOW he did things.. Those who liked him and those who don’t can agree on a point that no one can contend: Authenticity always wins. If you’re right, if you act the way you are meant to, if you are performing your functions the way YOU should without hesitation or remorse for what others will say or think, you will succeed. If you stop paying attention to the things that take you off your life course, you will reach the goal you intended. Even if you are not sure if your goal, you should try to find who you are. Ride the wave with the person you know and don’t pretend to be anyone you’re not.
Ali did just that. He was Muhammad Ali.
And he became the greatest that ever lived…