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It’s Been a Year Since the World Lost Muhammad Ali

Cassius Clay celebrates his 1960 Gold Medal outside of Central High School via AP.

My first Saturday morning shift in June got off to a rough start.  The internet at my house was on the fritz.  Luckily, I was wise enough to wake up earlier than usual to prepare for a day filled with posts.  For some reason, 840 WHAS was on the radio of my 1996 Ford Escort as I made my way to the Wi-Fi at Panera Bread.  What I heard shook me to the core.

“Muhammad Ali has died.”

I feared for the worst the night before, but never thought it could actually happen.  I couldn’t take the car out of park.  My hometown hero, The Greatest of All Time was dead.  The only response I could muster were tears.  I wept for a man I never met, a man who could not speak during my lifetime, but a man from my town who shocked the world.

After shaking off the cobwebs, I proceeded to put on my game face for my greatest moment, an opportunity to honor The Greatest.  The following week was surreal as thousands made the pilgrimage to Louisville.  I was one of many who felt it necessary to pay my respects at the Ali Center.  Instead of seeing his procession through Louisville firsthand the following Friday, I was tasked to host Kentucky Sports Radio for the first time.  A dream fulfilled, I worried I would not provide an adequate show to respect The Greatest.  When the “On Air” light lit up, all nerves went away.  Before big moments, I always tell myself, “You got this.”  On that day, they were Ali’s words, not mine.

It’s hard to encapsulate what happened to the city of Louisville for a week in the early summer of 2016.  However, ESPN’s Tom Junod does it as well as anybody possibly could, capturing the spirituality and serenity that crept over the city.  The following excerpt describes how difficult it was to prepare a funeral for a person who belonged to the world.

So the question is not how big the funeral is going to be, nor how many famous people can be accommodated, but to whom does Muhammad Ali belong?

He had that kind of soul, the kind people claim for themselves, so burying him requires sorting through any number of constituencies. He was a husband and a father. He was a citizen of Louisville; he was a citizen of the world. He was a proud black man who held the truth of his own beauty self-evident; he was offered — especially in his later years when he had been made safe by silence — as the embodiment of post-racial possibility. He became a global figure not when he became heavyweight champion of the world but when he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, exchanging the name of a proud young man for a name that made his people proud. He was a Muslim, devout and conservative, and he was a celebrity who tended to speak of himself in superlatives. He never stopped calling himself The Greatest and he never stopped saying God is great, and he somehow reconciled those assertions.

The city has taken steps to honor Ali around the anniversary of his death. The “I Am Ali” Festival began today and will span six weeks at the center that bears his name along the Louisville riverfront, honoring a different one of his core principles each week.  In the world of sports wear Ali vaulted to the top of the world, the Louisville Bats are wearing jerseys tonight bearing his image.  Next month, a title boxing match will be held in Freedom Hall, the place where Cassius Clay won his first professional bout.

It’s not all positive.  In the year since his passing, the bliss surrounding the non-violent aftermath has left Louisville.  A violent Memorial Day weekend was capped off with a shooting in a crowd at The Big Four Bridge.  His childhood home was turned into a museum just before his passing, but within a year the owners say they may have to shut it down due to a lack of funding.

Muhammad Ali’s passing brought out the best of Louisville.  Maintaining his message for peace and striving for greatness has not been easy since, but it is not impossible, for Ali taught the world impossible is nothing.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

17 Comments for It’s Been a Year Since the World Lost Muhammad Ali

  1. JTHinton
    1:07 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

    Lou City has an Ali-themed scarf for those 6 wks

  2. luke_emberton
    1:24 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

    it’s been like 50 years since he threw his Olympic Gold Medal in the Ohio River way to honor your country

    • blackmilk23
      2:24 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Dude that was in 1960. He had pretty good grounds not to be proud of America back then. Let’s be reasonable.

    • JusSayin
      2:35 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      First of all: I’m pretty sure this story wasn’t true…. Even if it was it’s his medal. He earned it. He can do whatever he wants with it.

      Second of all: He’s supposed to honor a country that wouldn’t let him stay in certain hotels and make him or sit certain lunch counters?

      He spent all summer in Rome being treated like a regular person then came back “home” to segregation. I feel like his feelings were understandable.

      I don’t agree with everything Ali has said and done but this isn’t something to take issue with.

    • Eazy
      3:00 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Exactly, the people that criticize him for that kind of stuff are ignorant and have never experienced what it’s like to be a minority. Yet they get their feelings hurt. Who’s the snowflake?

  3. Ridge Runner
    1:45 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

    Great athlete and I liked him as someone to watch work the entertainment world. His time with Howard and the back and forth banter was priceless.

    I did not agree with him politically or patriotically however.

    • Eazy
      3:03 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Try seeing things from the other side. Him fighting for the country back then would be like Kanter fighting for Turkey now.

    • JusSayin
      3:09 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Watch out posting measured reasonable comments around here. We want hot takes only.

  4. 8xchamp
    2:33 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

    He’s a coward, ask someone that fought the wars he dodged.

    • BigBlueMeade
      2:46 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Yeah that war that was a complete waste of human lufe and resources from both sides fighting it? Just to prove a point to another country that self sovereignty is only allowed if you choose the “right” government? Yeah that war.

    • blackmilk23
      2:50 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Well my grandfather fought in those wars and he had his old service buddies over all the time when I was kid before they passed. They all seemed to be pretty big fans of Ali even acknowledging that he didn’t go to war.

      Now to be fair they are all black and from Louisville . And I believe a couple of them actually knew him… But the opinion that he is a “coward” is certainly not universally held even among veterans.

    • Eazy
      3:02 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Yeah, he should fight for a country that made him sit at a different table, drink separately and segregated him. The real cowards were the oppressors in the government and the South in particular.

  5. sincitycat
    3:04 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

    It took great courage to resist the draft as Aii did. If you want to talk about a coward, try John Wayne. He made himself look like a war hero by making movies while his comrades fought in WWII, like Ted Williams. John Wayne was our original Chicken Hawk, just like Dickless Cheney.

    • BBN in H-Town
      9:16 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

      Stating his acts were courageous is a slap in the face to all veterans, and it’s incredibly ignorant to boot.

    • runningunnin.454
      12:16 pm June 4, 2017 Permalink

      That’s somewhat disingenuous. In 1941 John Wayne was in his mid 30’s, he had limited success in his career, and he had several kids to support. He was issued a deferment based upon dependent family considerations; this was common at that time.
      As his career took off during the war, primarily due to war films such as “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, his contribution to the morale of the country was considered more important than any role he could serve as a rank and file soldier.

  6. BBN in H-Town
    9:19 pm June 3, 2017 Permalink

    Yeah, the guy who dodged the draft and condemned violence while punching people in the face for a living … no thanks. We have real heroes to honor in this country. Let’s move on.

  7. jzoneblue
    7:02 am June 4, 2017 Permalink

    he joined the nation of islam and malcolm X due to the racism of the time, to become a Sunni muslim. he spoke out against radical islam, but he was naive as to what is written in the koran. that there are three choices for no-muslims, to die, to convert, or to be enslaved.