Goodbye Muhammad. A remembrance of the Greatest.
Muhammad Ali, the greatest fighter of all-time, has passed away at the age of 74. Even the simple task of writing that sentence took an amazing amount of effort. I am crushed at the time of writing this, unable to comprehend a world in which Ali is no longer a part. In many ways the impact of his loss on me doesn't make sense. He was a boxer whose heyday was in the 1960's and 70's. I am a 24 year old kid from the middle of America, yet I feel his loss deeply inside of me. There's just something about Ali that is timeless.
I have a poster of Ali hanging on my bedroom wall. It's been there for as long as I can remember, no matter the house, city, or state I am living in I have that poster. It is the famous picture of a defiant and angry Ali towering over a fallen Sonny Liston in the first round of their second fight. It has a single quote over the middle of the poster that simply says "Impossible is Nothing". I love that poster, it's one of my prized possessions. In times of both triumph and defeat that poster has inspired me.
When the Will Smith movie, "Ali" came out I remember watching it again and again, just laying on the floor, enraptured by the on-screen experience. I was transfixed by his life, his story. I will never forget the films final act, where Ali and his group journey to Africa for the fight against George Foreman. The stunning imagery of the African landscape, coupled with the films breathtaking musical score to convey this monumental time in Ali's life, the crossroad that he suddenly found himself at, all leading to the fight against Foreman itself and his stirring victory, years later it still gives me chills.
That was Ali's magic though. He made the simple, the seemingly mundane inspirational. He inspired me and millions of others across the globe, with the apparent ease with which he routinely did the impossible. He could never defeat Liston, until he did. He could never win the rematch, he could never defend the title, he could never defeat Frazier, it was impossible for him to beat Foreman. Ali was weaker, older, tired, not as fast, he just couldn't do it. The Thrilla in Manila was a Herculean effort, a titanic struggle between Ali and Frazier that nearly killed each man. Yet again and again he did win, he proved time and again how foolish everyone was in their judgments.
Arguably my favorite quote of his is "I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was." That confidence, but more then that, the optimism all over that quote struck me profoundly deeply when I first read it, just as it still does so today. I often think about where my seemingly endless reservoir of confidence and even more so optimism come from. I am by far the most optimistic person in both my family and friend groups. I think a big part of where it came from were all those great books of history I read when I was younger, the stories of mankind's failures and missteps yes, but also and far more importantly, its phenomenal success's and impossible achievements.
There were few tales greater, more ludicrous or more ambitious then that of the skinny kid from Louisville, Kentucky, who had his bike stolen one seemingly regular afternoon. What happened next, would ultimately set the world ablaze with how one man, continuously proved just how possible the impossible was. The greatest of all-time indeed, Muhammad, thank you for everything. I wouldn't be this crazy dreamer and crucially achiever of crazy dreams, without your sometimes difficult, flawed, often exhilarating and electric life. You flew above the rest of us, soaring through the skies, offering and serving as both a warning and inspiration to us back down here on Earth and through fits and starts on both ends, eventually we meet each other in the sunlight and bettered the world in ways nobody could ever have imagined.