This is the 17th day of our Sportsmanship in Black series and I hope you have enjoyed each of them. When you do something every day, you can sometimes grow tired. I won’t lie about it. Researching, writing, and speaking about some of the greatest African-Americans in history has been tough, but it’s well worth it. The experience has taught me that learning is cyclical and not linear. It’s not just me providing knowledge to the readers and listeners of this blog. I’m learning right along with you. Today, we profile Muhammad Ali, who was born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17,1942 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ali is the type of figure that was tough for me to research. There’s plenty of information on him, but what could I provide that would make his story even more unique? We all know he won the World Heavyweight Championship in boxing three times. We know about his relationship with Howard Cosell and all the funny bits they did over the years. We know that Ali became one of the most respected and loved sports figures in the world. Ali never saw a microphone he didn’t like. Reporters knew they could always get a good quote from the “The Greatest.”
While he did call Joe Frazier a “gorilla” and Sonny Liston “ugly,” Ali did not shy away from the more serious topics of the day either. Ali rose to stardom in the volatile 1960s and was not blind to the racial tensions in the United States. Many contemporary athletes are criticized for not having an opinion about anything that affects society at-large. Ali knew the power he possessed. He knew he could get people to listen to the World Heavyweight Champion. He just had to have something meaningful to say.
Ali recited the following original poem more than 35 years ago during an interview. His strength, hopes, dreams, and beliefs were summed up in less than a minute. Thanks, Champ. (Email subscribers click here). Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!