and so 2016n has not yet ceased to remove icons from the world we know, dear reader. we are somewhere near half way through this year, look you see, and thus far we've bid farewell to what feels like a very high number of those who gave so much to the second half of the last century. at this great risk of sounding tres Tony Parsons and stealing some of his thunder, it's hard to disagree with the idea that the most recent departure was of he who gave so very much.
Muhammad Ali, then. a man whose career in his profession of choice - boxing - would be well enough to secure the global sadness at the fact that he has gone. the trick is, and for the most part the focus here, that he was so very much more than this.
one would assume that the words most closely associated with him were his declaration of being "the greatest". time and again over the years we've seen many make this claim. i wouldn't particularly wish to cloud this post with much in the way of negative, but we are of course all aware of a particular dickhead that claims he is the greatest, instead of doing what he should - go off and work hard at being the greatest before you say you are.
with Muhammad Ali, it's important to understand that when he said he was the greatest, it's because he went off and did whatever it took - worked however long he had to, made whatever sacrifice was required - to make absolutely sure he was the greatest that he could be. sure, he was a legendary showman - it would be hard to argue that it was anyone but him that made boxing the massive box office draw it was from the 60s to the 90s - but it would be wrong to suggest his claims were either pure showmanship or straightforward arrogance. he gave whatever he had to give in order to be whatever he wanted to be. few among us would ever do the same.
the greatest example of this is, without any doubt, his stance against the draft. his refusal to be enlisted, citing that he had "no quarrel with the Vietcong", was a stand that not so much could have cost him everything that he had worked for rather than it very much, for some three years, did.
for three years in his late 20s - arguably the prime and peak years of any boxer - Ali fought for his right to not fight in a war he disagreed with and to be allowed to carry on his profession. today it seems ridiculous that one would have to do that. the stance Ali took is, for a very significant part, the reason why it now seems ridiculous. those brave souls who take to twitter behind fake names in order to protest against the upset of the hour would do well to understand what making a stand actually means.
throw onto the top of that his tireless work in equality - talking and acting in a way to bring understanding of different races, religions, ways of life without ever forcing the will of one onto another - and you can kind of get why he will be missed for so much more than boxing.
in terms of him being the greatest, for me the greatest thing which he ever said was "never look down on those that look up". these are the words which nail his greatness. for him there was never, ever the sense that his claims of being the greatest made him the best, as in he didn't promote himself as a better person than anyone else - he just saw everyone being the same, but drew attention to the fact that he worked to achieve the pinnacle of all he could be.
the world today is littered with people who get to a position of some significance and all they really do is look down across those who aspire and dream of achieving the same. let's not tarnish this blog post any further, be we all know of some - rappers, pretend musicians, politicians - who are guilty of this.
my own memories of Ali? i have a vague recollection of some cartoon TV show in which he starred, presumably seen on TV in the 70s. all i can really remember is an awesome theme that featured people changing "Ali! Ali!" with some aggression, and maybe an episode where he went on safari.
i absolutely love the above cartoon comic cover. not for Ali battering Superman as such, but for the oh so subtle way that Batman is watching with some enthusiasm, presumably in the hope that little master goody two shoes from some blown up planet gets his nose broken. the dude turning to share a laugh about it with the Batman is priceless.
wouldn't it be something if we got to spend the rest of this year free from the prospect of mourning those who we have loved, idolized and admired? it seems unlikely that we shall be so fortunate, for it is the way of the world.
if the first half of the twentieth century was scarred by political stupidity and wars bent on ruining the world, then the second half was beautified by people pushing to save it, and indeed make it a better place. in regards of the latter, few did it to the level which Muhammad Ali did.
be excellent to each other..................................