Tag Archives: Muhammad Ali

Yep, he is bigger than the game

Tiger Woods would never say such a thing out loud, within earshot of others.

However, I am going to say what would remain unspoken by the greatest golfer of this generation: Tiger Woods is bigger than the game.

Woods won his 15th major pro golf title over the weekend, winning the Masters Tournament by a stroke the all-world field of the greatest golfers on the planet. Sports pundits can’t stop talking about it. They won’t stop talking and writing about what they have described as the “greatest sports comeback in human history.”

Woods had gone 11 years without winning a major tournament, and 15 years since winning the Masters.

Hmm. I’ll offer this note, and then move on to the topic at hand: Muhammad Ali’s return as heavyweight boxing champion in 1974 after being stripped of his title and exiled from the sport for more than three years ranks as the No. 1 sports comeback — in my mind.

But yes, Tiger’s comeback was one for the ages.

He is bigger than the game. I admit to watching the Masters with exponentially greater interest when he entered the weekend rounds in hunt for his fifth Masters green jacket. I love watching the Masters anyway, but with Tiger lurking near the top of the leader board, my interest turned into an obsession.

I wasn’t alone. Others around the world who aren’t even necessarily golf fans took time to watch Tiger Woods pounce when Francesco Molinari doused his 12th-hole tee shot, paving the way for a double-bogey on the hole.

Woods’ endorsement income from Nike is going to fly into the stratosphere. There might be other corporate sponsors that will sign the 43-year-old up as well.

Think of it. Woods’ career started tanking when his wife, Elin, caught him messing around with other women. Then he got caught driving while impaired. Injuries later would damn near take him out for keeps. He couldn’t play the game he dominated since his arrival on the pro tour in 1996.

He fought back. Now he’s back on the top of his game. On top of the world. On top of the heap.

Tiger Woods wouldn’t dare say what many of us believe, that he is bigger than the game.

He is. There. I’ve said it.

Louisville renames airport after hometown legend

While we are wringing our hands over the shuttering of our government and other matters involving the president of the United States and our Congress . . . we now have some news to cheer.

Louisville, Ky., airport authority officials have voted to rename their city’s international airport after a man who became arguably the most famous person on Earth.

Welcome to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

The three-time heavyweight boxing champion would have turned 77 years of age. On the eve of that birthday, the Louisville Regional Airport Authority board announced the name change. It honors the memory of Ali, who died in 2016 at the age of 74.

This news cheers me greatly.

“Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he had only one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer.

Man, oh man. What a world we live in.

Back when he was still known as Cassius Marcellus Clay, the man who grew to become a living legend faced outright discrimination simply because of the color of his skin. His fists led him to great heights after winning an Olympic gold medal in boxing. He won the heavyweight title in 1964, scoring a huge upset over Sonny Liston. Then he had his title stripped from him after he refused to be drafted into the Army in protest of the Vietnam War. He was banned from boxing for more than three years. Ali came back and then won his title again in 1974 by knocking out George Foreman. He lost it once more, then regained it with a victory over Leon Spinks.

He spoke brashly as a young man. Then he became a voice for the dispossessed as an older man. Ali fought for his rights as a U.S. citizen. Then, while stricken with Parkinson’s disease after his retirement from boxing, The Champ became an advocate for those suffering from debilitating illness.

Now his hometown’s international airport will carry The Greatest’s name. It makes me want to buy a plane ticket simply to fly into Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

Penalize players for kneeling?

I saw this Twitter message from Donald J. Trump.

He asks whether the NFL player contract requires players to stand with the hand over their heart when the National Anthem is being played.

Then he suggests that players should be suspended for the season without pay if they kneel a second time.

Hmm. Interesting. That kind of reminds of when the boxing authorities denied the late Muhammad Ali the ability to make a living because he refused to enter the U.S. Army; he protested the Vietnam War on religious grounds.

The Supreme Court would rule later, unanimously, that Ali’s suspension from boxing was unconstitutional. He was being denied the right to protest the government.

Aren’t the players protesting local governments’ treatment of African-American offenders? Isn’t there a parallel here between today’s protests and the one that The Greatest made a couple of generations ago?

Ali might get pardon? Eh? For what?

Donald J. “Ignoramus in Chief” Trump Sr. reportedly is considering a pardon for, get a load of this, the late Muhammad Ali.

Please, Mr. President, do some homework — for once, will ya?

The Greatest does not need a pardon. Do you understand?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1971 that the boxing authorities that stripped Ali of his heavyweight champion title violated his constitutional rights that (a) guaranteed his freedom of religion, (b) allowed him to protest peaceably the federal government and (c) allowed him freedom of speech.

You see, Ali protested the Vietnam War by refusing in 1967 to accept induction into the U.S. Army; he cited his Muslim faith as the basis for his refusal to be drafted. The boxing authorities then decided to deny him the right to earn a living by stripping him of his ability to box, to defend his heavyweight title. He was cast out of boxing for more than three years.

The nation’s highest court rectified that injustice by overturning his conviction on draft evasion. What’s more, President Jimmy Carter issued a pardon for all Vietnam War draft dodgers — and that included Muhammad Ali.

Earth to Trump: The Greatest of All Time does not need a presidential pardon!

Now, get ready for that summit with Kim Jong Un.

Is this the work of a ‘fraud’?

I wasn’t looking for proof of a political accusation, but one has presented itself anyway.

In 2016, former Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney peeled the bark off the party’s primary frontrunner when he called Donald John Trump Sr. a “fraud” and a “phony.”

I thought at the time that the 2012 GOP nominee was talking exclusively about Trump’s penchant for bellicosity and insults. However, in the past few days, some things have come into sharper focus.

The president campaigned for office proclaiming his immense skill as a deal maker. He promised time and time again on the stump that he’d make the “best deals” in the history of humankind … or words to that effect. He vowed that the nation no longer would be snookered into falling for “bad deals.”

Well, here we are. One year into Trump’s time in office, the nation’s government is shut down. The president has been unable to deliver on one of those fundamental promises of his winning presidential campaign. He hasn’t cut any deal at all, let alone any bad deals.

I guess I can presume that’s what Mitt meant when he called Trump a “fraud.”

The late, great heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali used to say about his predictions about when he’d knock his foes out that “It ain’t braggin’ if you do it.”

Donald Trump needs to quit braggin’ if he can’t deliver the goods.

POTUS keeps telling us how smart, rich, non-racist he is

Heroes don’t brag about their heroic acts.

Geniuses don’t tell us how smart they are.

Great athletes — the late, great Muhammad Ali notwithstanding — don’t crow about their athletic prowess.

Wealthy folks don’t boast about their riches.

And non-racists don’t need to tell us they aren’t racist.

So … why does Donald John “Stable, Rich, Non-Racist Genius” Trump Sr. insist on reminding us of his myriad admirable qualities?

The president stood alongside a fellow Republican this past weekend, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and told us that he is “not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” The response was directed, I presume, at a reporter who had asked Trump “Are you a racist?”

I am baffled by this president’s insistence on reminding us of the things that need no reminder.

The racist label has been given new prominence in the wake of Trump’s statement about immigrants coming here from “s**thole countries” that, by the way, happen to be populated by citizens with dark skin. This statement attributed to the president, of course, follows a distinct pattern of disparagement and disrespect of certain individuals and institutions.

So, he tells us he is “not a racist.” Big … deal! His actions and his myriad utterances over many years suggest something quite different.

He bellows about how rich he is. Then he refuses to release his tax returns, ignoring a custom followed by presidential nominees for the past 40 years. Those returns would tell us whether he is as rich as he claims to be.

And his intelligence? Well, he keeps yapping about how he knows “the best words,” and how he attended the “best college,” where he was an academic star. Just wondering: Has anyone seen this guy’s college transcript?

As CNN’s Chis Cillizza has noted, the president clearly is “overcompensating” for what appear to be some serious shortcomings.

My own view is that someone who tells you he is the “best” at anything, he usually isn’t. If he has to remind us that he is “not a racist,” well, you know …

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Boxing has come to this?

Once upon a time — a lifetime or two ago — I was a big boxing fan.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. would win the heavyweight boxing championship in 1964, change his name to Muhammad Ali and then dominate the sweet science for, oh, the next 15 or so years.

Yeah, he was stripped of his title for more than three years over his religious objection to the Vietnam War. Even then, he was The Man.

Boxing eventually took a turn away from the simplicity of the sport. It formed a lot of governing boxing authorities. Each of them recognized their version of “world champion.” They expanded the number of weight classes. There were so many “world champions,” no one could keep track of them. Some of these weight classes are topped by something called “interim champion,” whatever the hell that means!

Now the sport has come to a new level of carnival spectacle. It has scheduled a match between a retired “world champion” and a mixed martial arts goon. The boxing/MMA world is agog over the prospect of former champion boxer Floyd Mayweather fighting MMA champ Connor McGregor sometime this year.

Who’s going to win? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I do know that boxing has now resorted to creating circus acts to gin up attention for a sport in serious decline.

If only we could return to the era when the heavyweight boxing champion of the world was the baddest man on Earth.

Oh, do I miss Muhammad Ali.

Feeling so-o-o-o busted

A friend of mine outed me this morning after I wrote a blog post criticizing the FBI for spending public money to look for quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen jersey.

I wrote that the feds didn’t have a role to play in looking for a damn shirt worn by Brady the day he led the New England Patriots to their stunning Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

My friend responded with this query: How would I feel if the trunks that Muhammad Ali wore the night he defeated Joe Frazier in Manila had been stolen?

Oh, my goodness! I was so very busted by my friend, to whom I responded “knows me too well.” He must know how I feel about The Champ. How I revered him for so many years as he fought with such power, speed and grace. And how he became such a huge civil rights voice during the time he was exiled from professional boxing because he stood up in protest of the Vietnam War.

My response to my friend was that I would feel differently. I joked that I would have mobilized the armed forces to find Muhammad Ali’s stolen trunks.

Actually, I wouldn’t do such a thing.

Although …

My friend clearly decked me with that question. He gave me pause.

The FBI has been in the news a good bit of late for reasons that speak directly to its mission. Looking for a quarterback’s stolen jersey just doesn’t seem to fit that bill.

Good job, FBI, in helping find a shirt

Muhammad Ali’s son detained at airport … for real!

Put yourself in the place of an airport customs/security agent for a moment.

A young man comes off an airplane that’s just traveled to the United States from a foreign airport. He presents his passport to you and it has the name “Muhammad Ali Jr.” on it.

What do you ask the young man?

If it were me — and I was allowed under customs protocol — I would ask: “Are you the son of The Greatest of All Time? Was your late, legendary father really The Champ, the baddest, prettiest, greatest heavyweight boxer in history?”

If he said “yes,” I’d stamp his passport, tell him how much I admired his dad and let him through.

That didn’t happen recently at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (Fla.) International Airport. Muhammad Ali Jr. arrived there on a flight from Jamaica. He was detained. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials say he wasn’t detained because he is a Muslim. They offered vague reasons for acting as they did.

Ali was profiled, according to an Ali family lawyer. The officials asked him if he is Muslim and asked him where he got his name. As USA Today reported: “Customs spokesman Daniel Hetlage declined to provide details of the incident, citing policies that protect travelers’ privacy, but he wrote in an email that the agency does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“‘We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity,’ he said. ‘Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles.'”

Young Ali, who’s 44, is blessed — or cursed, perhaps, depending on the circumstance — with having arguably the most famous name on the planet. It also is the name of world’s most beloved Muslim.

Part of me wants to ridicule the officer who stopped Ali Jr. Another part of me, though, suggests the officer was just doing his job.