The greatest

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

I wasn’t a boxing fan until Muhammad Ali came along. And I’m not one now that he’s gone.

Like his fellow boxer Kris Kristofferson’s “Pilgrim,” Ali was “a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” Richard Pryor, who went a few rounds with him, said he was “so fast you don’t see his punches till they comin’ back.” Lord, was he fun to watch, and to listen to.

Some considered him a braggart, but it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it. And it’s one of sport’s greatest tragedies that he kept on doing it after he was no longer The Greatest.

His sting is gone. May he float like a butterfly.

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13 Responses to “The greatest”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Sad day. Ali was the real thing. As you say, he should have hung up his gloves a lot sooner. But lets not forget that Uncle Sam fucked up his career when he was in his prime.

    • Steve O Says:

      Uncle Sam … yeah, that was a seriously fucked up period in our history. Whenever I hear some conspiracy theory nut say, “don’t think that can’t happen again,” I usually walk away as fast as I can. And yet I catch myself thinking, don’t think that can’t happen again …

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That fight with Larry Holmes really punched his ticket to the Twilight Zone. And the heavyweight class degenerated into low comedy shortly thereafter, so I switched to watching the lighter weight classes.

      Once Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran delivered his infamous “No mas, no mas,” that was it for me. I was out. Christ, what a dirty game boxing is. Makes cycling look like kindergarten.

      • Steve O Says:

        About the same for me, except I came back for a little bit when Tyson was at the top of his game. Then Iron Mike fought Bonecrusher Smith, and a third grader could tell that someone had gotten to Smith, either threatened him or gave him a slice of the action. Dude has zero interest in winning and was all-in in going the distance. Results could have been published the day before the fight.

        Cycling is dirty. But it’s generally not fixed. Not sure which is worse.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Word, Patrick. I gave up on boxing about the same time.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I watched one last heavyweight bout, if you want to call it that: the infamous Tyson-Holyfield ear-biter.

        An acquaintance, a chef and former pug, arranged the pay-per-view when we were living in Weirdcliffe, and a bunch of us chipped in for drinks, vittles and the match.

        Our host was horrified at the outcome and offered to return everyone’s money. Nope, we said, we’ll all take the beating on this one.

  2. Jane B. Says:

    Thank you.

  3. Steve O Says:

    How many people over the last 65,000 years have proclaimed, “I am the greatest!”?

    And yet, you hear those words, and who’s the only name that comes to mind?

    Dude had some amazing moments. Not at the top but somewhere near was simply standing on a stage, accepting a flaming torch, ’96 Olympics. Parkinson’s already had him, was a big deal just to stand there.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Such a sad irony to see that quick wit erased, The Mouth mostly silent. So few of us have the good sense to get out while we’re still at the top of our games. Just one more novel, one more album, one more column, one more fight … I can quit anytime I want. Really.

  4. Pat O'Brien Says:

    As they said this morning on the NPR Weekend Edition, “he was on the right side of history.” My Dad and I listened to the first Ali (Clay) and Liston fight on the radio. I remember it well. He whupped the “Big Ugly Bear.” Foreman was my favorite heavyweight, especially when Frazier said a Foreman jab was like “getting poked with a phone pole” I think Ali got poked one too many times.

    I think Ali’s doctor said the effect of numerous large and small TBI can be Parkinson’s disease. We know what else numerous small brain injuries can do from the NFL player stories. Makes you wonder how they can pay these MMA folks enough to risk death or permanent brain damage every time their bell gets rung.

    104 in the shade right now. I just wheeled the grill into the sun to grill our chicken for lunch. No fire necessary.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The Parkinson’s is bad shit. Our tenant back in Bibleburg has it. She went for the deep brain stimulation, but gave up on it after she developed an infection around the implanted generator; now she manages it as best she can with medication.

      No Parkinson’s in our family that I know of. Just AA (alcoholism and Alzheimer’s). The good news is, if I get the Alzheimer’s, I’ll probably forget that I quit drinking and the liquor stores can start hiring again. Their long national nightmare will be at an end.

  5. Mike Frye Says:

    I see Mohammed Ali as a example of warning. The Parkinson’s that he developed seems to be directly related to the number of traumas that he sustained while while he was boxing. The difference between the early interviews and the later appearances after he retired was heartbreaking.

    For me I got my marbles rattled riding my bike.( Five days out cold, under life support for three.) And yes I was wearing a helmet. I used to give safety lectures at the local elementary school and if you ever want a kid to never listen to you ever again, have them catch you doing what you tell them not to do. So I was wearing my helmet when I crashed my bike riding to work.

    As for Alzheimer’s, my mom still remembers who I am but I don’t know how long that’s going to last. When she was 20 years old she was on the US national tennis team. At 22 she got her bachelor’s degree in English and at 42 she got her Masters degree in audiology. Now she has the attention span of about 30 seconds. You always think when you get older your body will go, but good God I never thought that I’d see one of the brightest people I’ve ever met just fade away.

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