I here openly admit that this particular passing has touched me quite deeply. Couldn’t bring myself to even think about posting on it last night, when I first heard.
He is still — even as he catches a ride out of this Universe — so much of what my youth was about. . . and so much of what it meant in the 1960s — to take a stand, at great personal cost, against the war in Vietnam. To demand of the world the right to be called by a name of his choosing.
And only then — third, in my personal list of descriptors — will he forever be the greatest of all time (in the ring). A bit, from the Gray Lady, then:
. . . .He was more than the sum of his athletic gifts. An agile mind, a buoyant personality, a brash self-confidence and an evolving set of personal convictions fostered a magnetism that the ring alone could not contain. He entertained as much with his mouth as with his fists, narrating his life with a patter of inventive doggerel. (“Me! Wheeeeee!”)
Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances. His refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his rejection of racial integration at the height of the civil rights movement, his conversion from Christianity to Islam and the changing of his “slave” name, Cassius Clay, to one bestowed by the separatist black sect he joined, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were perceived as serious threats by the conservative establishment and noble acts of defiance by the liberal opposition.
Loved or hated, he remained for 50 years one of the most recognizable people on the planet. . . .
Travel well, champ. Travel well. Tomorrow, we will contrast this sublime life with that of a decidedly small man who invokes a courageous, very able federal judge’s ethnicity in a defense of his own (allegedly) RICO-style fraud. Sad times for our system of ordered liberty, indeed.
But we will grin widely at the Milky Way above, tonight, knowing that one beautiful butterfly/bee’s soul is now spinning, free. . . free of the limits his failing body had placed upon his agile mind, over these last three decades. Go ahead, Champ — you’ve earned it. . . . whoosh!