Sunday, November 13, 2005

Muhammad Ali: The Greatest?

I have to get this off my chest once and for all. I know Muhammad Ali is an American icon. His supporters talk about all he’s done and how he’s suffered. How he’s “the greatest” boxer of all time, and how he was humiliated when he refused to serve his country during a time of war (in doing so changing his name to reflect his conversion to Sunni Moslem). Ali argued that his new religion prevented him fighting; therefore, he refused to answer his nation’s call as a conscientious objector. He was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title and spent a time, albeit briefly, in jail. After which, he staged a come back to regain his title and eventually went on to do community service. While, that’s commendable, did he really deserve the Medal of Honor?

Personally, I have to say that in itself does not entitle him to the nation’s highest civilian award. The award was designed to be given to ordinary citizens who directly contributed to the wellbeing of the country (ironically, it was originally presented in recognition of civilian service during WWII). Refusing to serve his country does not, in my opinion, qualify. I missed going to Vietnam by barely a year, yet I volunteered to join the military right out of high school. Today, I am a disabled veteran. I had older friends and brothers of friends who went off to war. Some came back in cheap green plastic body bags. I served with many a Marine and Sailor who served in Vietnam. More than a few volunteered for several tours of duty there. I was stationed with Navy Seals. I was station with Marine Recon Rangers (“hooyah!” guys). These men, and many women who served, were there to serve and protect this nation. None of these people wanted to die. Not a one. In fact, I guess you could say that we were all “conscientious objectors”. But when our nation needed us, we went---right or wrong.

Second, what does converting to Sunni Islam have to do with anything? You think that either the Sunni or Shite Moslems don’t fight? Wake up and smell the goat cheese. They’ve been murdering each other since the days of Muhammad’s grandsons, and they continue killing each other with abandon to this very day. Let’s face it; no religion is completely untainted by shame of having murdered in the name of God.

For those here in Louisville, Kentucky, the childhood home of then Cassius Clay, let’s remember that while we’re spending tens of millions of dollars on the Muhammad Ali Center, this is same guy who repeatedly told the world how “backwards” Louisville was; of how he didn’t want to associated with Louisville; of how he would need come back to Louisville; of how, after his conversion, he would never allow his promoters to use “Louisville” as his home city in boxing matches, choosing instead Chicago, Illinois or Patterson, New Jersey. Let’s also not forget, this is the same guy who pitched his Olympic Gold Metal into the Potomac River.

Finally, as a life long boxing aficionado, I don’t think Ali can lay claim to the title of great of fighter of all time. In fact, Louisville has produced several great boxers like Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, and Jimmy Page. A terrific athlete? You bet. As a sports entertainer? Yelp, he was one of the best. In fact, Ali was one the very best self promoters in sports history. But as the truly the greatest “Master of the Sweet Science”? Give me “Sugar Ray” Robinson, Floyd Patterson, or Rocky Marciano anytime.


Bill Hohmann said...

Dear Paul, Thank you. I feel that the article about the natural gas price increase was interesting - especially, assuming that the utility's costs were not in line with the proposed increases and also assuming that the requested increases were out of line with a normal or adequate ROI for the utility. As far as Mohamed Ali, I have always thought that he was merely a racist street thug who was really made by Howard Cossell and his cohorts in the N.Y. media. In reality what did he really know about world politics, or even the differences between Shite and Sunni Muslims. Why would anyone give him a medal, other than for boxing accomplishments? I know that he was a dupe (similar to Jane Fonda) for North Korea and some or the Socialist/Communist countries from the 60's through the 90's.
Sincerely, Bill Hohmann

Mark Irwin said...

Paul-Ali pitched his Olympic medal in the Ohio River not the Potomac. Because of his religion another citizen had to take his place and go to Vietnam. I signed up in Detroit, to go in 1973, but they didn't want someone with hypertension and the war was winding down. Their loss. But to give a medal to a citizen who refused to answer his country's calling is wrong. He will probably throw it in the river like his Olympic medal. That Peace Center being built for him in his name will fold in a few years, be remodeled and the taxpayers who hold a mortgage will again pick up the tab. Its a building for a wrong icon in a small town with a wrong purpose. A Carter Center it will never be. It reminds me of the West End Broadway movie theater that Muhammad showed up for on the premiere. Guess the blacks didn't support it as it closed. They won't support this Peace Center either. What a waste of taxpayer money. Mark