Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Name Recognition

A long time ago, in a state far away, my  father approached a young man walking the streets of Denver who was absently twirling a pearl-handled revolver. My father asked him for an autograph. The young man took the menu my father offered him and wrote, "Cassius Clay." This young man was on his way to becoming the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Back then, it wasn't that hard to get that autograph.
Once Cassius Clay became the Greatest of All Time, it was a little harder get. Climbing forward in time, when my older brother was part of a multi-national group of law enforcement types who gathered to protect and serve at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He had a chance to serve and protect a man named Muhammad Ali, a much older and battle-scarred version of that young man from the streets of Denver. He was no longer twirling a pearl-handled revolver, damage of years in the ring and the ravages of Parkinson's disease had left him shaky and slow, but not so slow that he wouldn't stop in the Olympic Village to pose with other young boxers, posing them to make it appear as though they were taking their best shot at The Champ. And on the night that The Champ was scheduled to light the torch, my brother walked Ali and his family to the position where he would take the flame and carry it to those last few yards. My brother understood that he was in the presence of greatness, which is why he turned to Muhammad Ali's son and asked if he ever got asked for his autograph. That's how my older brother got Muhammad Ali's son's autograph.
In the hours after his death, a local news anchor made this assertion: "If you asked one hundred people who is currently the Heavyweight Champion of the World, ninety-five of them wouldn't have an answer. Back in the seventies, if you asked one hundred people who the Heavyweight Champion of the World was, they would all have answered 'Muhammad Ali.'" That's what being the Greatest will do for you.
He didn't stomp on the Terra, he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. That was the magic of Muhammad Ali. Aloha, Champ.

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