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Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Greatest Is Gone

I have stolen my title from that Time magazine cover and story, probably from the aftermath of the champ getting knocked out by Larry Holmes. I imagine it was hard for his fans to see it, and that's an understatement. When I imagine him in the ring, it's always the kid who destroyed Sonny Liston. I love those quick feet; to hit, and not get hit in return is the goal, the nirvana of boxers and their trainers, and for a time, no one was ever better.

And I have always admired the man, even if I shouldn't. To me, he is the symbol of unvarnished blackness, that which I must reckon with, even if I don't agree with it, or it makes me uncomfortable. The whole nation had to learn that, and we did.

When you see the unfailingly flattering remembrances, bear in mind that we are doing penance for those 3 peak years we took from him, still. We owe everyone he ever represented that, I daresay.

And there was no better man to speak out against Muslim extremism in those later years, because no one else had earned the credibility to speak across the cultures as he had. Arguably the world's most famous Muslim, saying what needs to be said. And to his great credit, if we are going to abide the silliness of making a man famous for punching people, we should really say that he used it well.

Those who still despise him for his most principled stand tend to be those who also say, "My country, right or wrong," and we needn't concern ourselves with them.

I heard him say on British TV that he'd spend the rest of his life getting ready to meet God. I hope and pray it's gone well. Lord, have mercy, and thank you for Cassius Marcellus Clay, the one we call Muhammad Ali.

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