OT: Happy Birthday, Muhammad Ali

Submitted by MGoCooper on January 17th, 2012 at 9:59 AM

Today is Muhammad Ali's birthday, the greatest boxer of anyones generation. He is still the most influential athlete alive, and is one of the most beloved people in the world. When you think about it, it has really be an amazing, and strange journey for him. From his name change that created a lot of controversy, to his stance against the draft and war. His converting to Islam, and his relationship with Malcolm X the nation of Islam, and his stance after Malcolm's death, to now being loved the world over.

I remember being at a Pistons game, and having pretty good seats. He and his wife and friends came walking by, and there was a hushed silence, and people in awe of the champ. I can't name many people who can do that in this world, but the champ still can. 

Happy Birthday, Champ, you truly did "shake up the world".






January 17th, 2012 at 10:46 AM ^

I'm more of a Frazier sympathizer...I was really into Ali when I was a kid, but then I actually read the things that arrogant ass would say about his opponents, namely Frazier. And his uber cool marketing agent was so uber cool.

Too bad Joe couldn't keep the blood rage for Ali a little more quelled, Frazier probably could've beat him more than once.

I don't celebrate anything about Ali anymore, which is a shame after he was a childhood hero of mine. But to each their own, I suppose.


January 17th, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

Smokin' Joe. Supposedly Ali did apologize for all his taunting (a lot of which was racial in nature) later in Joe's life. I hope that was the case. RIP 

It's really interesting how most the negatives and mis-steps about Ali are glossed over or not even acknowledged any more in favor or romanticizing the career/life of  "The Greatest."


January 17th, 2012 at 11:21 AM ^

He was an arrogant guy, and none more so than his build up to the fights with Frazier. But lets fast forward it to later in life. No one was a better to friend to Frazier than Ali, and Ali has given a lot of financial help to Smokin' Joe. They remained close friends throughout the years, and Frazier had no one in his life that would show up quicker if he were in trouble than Ali.


January 17th, 2012 at 3:41 PM ^

As Dan Patrick is talking right now about how Joe hated him until the day he died because of the way Ali had talked about and treated him. So somewhere in all this there is a version of their legacy that is being enhanced for dramatic effect.

EDIT- Outside the Lines is doing an Ali retrospective and just confirmed that Frazier essentially had no contact and no interest in hearing from Ali during his life after his career.


January 17th, 2012 at 10:01 PM ^

Ali's comments about Frazier look even more vile when you consider that Smokin' Joe gave Ali a ton of help and money during Ali's three year suspension. Heck, Frazier even lobbied for Ali to get reinstated as soon as possible so he could defend his title against Ali in the ring.


January 17th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

MJ was undoubtedly revolutionary and influential... in how products were marketed by athletes.  But he was a case study in marketing and $$$ uber alles.  He was so ridiculously judicious about never, ever, ever stepping out on a limb and saying anything that could be remotely interpreted as controversial, lest it damage Nike/Hanes/McDonalds/etc commercial campaigns.  He was a supremely influential guy... who bent over backwards to avoid ever using that influence to do anything other than sell overpriced sneakers and fast food.  Loved watching him play because he was an artist on the court, but that's about it.  Thumbs up to some of the original Mars Blackmon commercials, too.

Ali sacrificed the prime four years of his career (ages 24-28, the prime for essentially any boxer) to stand on his personal convictions.  We'll never know how good he was, because we never got to see him at his peak.  His prime was spent speaking on college campuses and marching for rights.  His out-of-sport acheivements were arguably (I'd say inarguably, but others may differ) much greater than what he did in the ring.  Then, on top of that, he basically invented the art of trash-talking and waging media war to pysch an opponent out.  That's been cheapened over the years because, like most things, it's imitated to such gross excess.  But it used to be new.  And it was entertainment.  And athletes really weren't thought of as entertainers before Ali, by fans or by themselves.  Babe Ruth might have been close, but even his personality wasn't quite as large. 

As iconic moments in sports go, I'd put Ali-Liston I, Ali-Foreman, or Ali-Frazier III as >>>> than, what, Jordan v. Craig Ehlo?  Jordan with the hanging layup vs. Lakers?  Cool moments, but I'm just sayin'... there's iconic, then there's iconic.  Here's the pic they should put next to iconic in the dictionary: 

He was a little mean to Frazier.  Yeah.  Frazier was a big boy and could have gotten over it.  If being trash-talked affects you that much, you don't have the mental makeup to be a great champion.  Jordan used to eviscerate his own teammates with his merciless trash-talking. 

Happy Birthday.  The Greatest in my book.


January 17th, 2012 at 11:50 AM ^

He walked the walk and talked the talk.
<br>He revolutionized the sports we love today.
<br>I personally think he's the greatest athlete in history. He's also my favorite athlete.
<br>Happy birthday champ! Hopefully there's many more to come!


January 17th, 2012 at 12:47 PM ^

Seeing the general public embrace Ali like he's Nelson Mandela reminds me of Reagan overlooking that "Born in the USA" was an indictment in verse. Treating Ali like his life is some vague affirmation of agreed upon values is far more repulsive, though, for the fact that it only became tenable when and because the man lost the ability to respond himself.


January 17th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

I met him a couple of times when I was a little kid. The first time was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. He picked me up in his arms, and all I remember is being really terrified since he was huge (I know I know, cool story bro). He used to live in Berrien Springs, MI. 

In any case, he is without a doubt one of the most influential sportsmen of the century. He's probably the only athlete who could be cocky and boisterous without coming off as classless. And the stand he took against the Vietnam War, coupled with his role in the civil rights struggle and his friendship with Malcolm X, is admirable whether you agree with him or not.

Happy 70th to the greatest.    


January 17th, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

Was probably Ali's greatest admirer.  The two had an amazing relationship-- they teased the living hell out of each other but didn't like it when other people took shots at the other.  I thought that was pretty well known.

As far as other athletes... jeebus, if they couldn't take a little trash-talking, they were gonna have a hard time being great fighters.  If you'd like to be a champion boxer, you're probably gonna want to adopt the sticks-and-stones-and-uppercuts may hurt me mantra re: words.


January 17th, 2012 at 3:12 PM ^

If using racial stuff  was done to simply sell a fight, if it truly was Ali's only intention when using it, is even more classless than just using the words out of ignorance or not giving a shit.

Also, I know that Cosell was buddy/buddy with Ali, but it doesnt make any racial stuff ok or not classless.


January 17th, 2012 at 3:40 PM ^

Part of the reason why Ali's adversaries and contemporaries had so much respect for him despite his relentless trash-talking is because of how genuinely gracious he was in private. For example, when Ken Norton was in a near-fatal car accident in 1986, Ali was one of the first people who arrived at the hospital to visit Norton. And he visited Norton regularly while he recovered from his injuries. There are numerous stories of Ali helping people out or reaching out to erstwhile adversaries in times of crisis. There is a reason why Ali is so admired, and it's not just because he was a great fighter. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. 

Also, in light of your signature, don't you think your point about Ali is a little ironic? Bob Ufer openly rooted for Michigan on the air and would often take shots at Ohio State ("10,000 alumni and 74,000 truck drivers"), yet he's well-respected. I've never even heard a Buckeye call Ufer classless.


January 17th, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

2- He did call his opponents racist names that is a fact. And while It doesn't mean he was a racist per se, it was still a classless approach to "selling fights" if that is your opinion of why he  was saying those things.

You're a fan and have very high regard for Ali and  I'm not saying I don't, but to act like he was infallable or didn't have mis-steps is not being honest.


January 17th, 2012 at 4:31 PM ^

and kept his mouth shut, which is what he had to do.  He didn't do anything off the field to promote civil rights.  If he had, maybe he couldn't have played... that would have been a noble sacrifice.  Like Ali made.

Nice straw man there... never said he didn't have faults, but if he had/has 99 problems, being a racist wasn't /isn't one of them.  You haven't stated what you think these racist comments were, but I feel comfortable saying Muhammad Ali didn't have a negative opinion of black people.  Really, really comfortable. 



January 17th, 2012 at 5:15 PM ^

Calling a black man an "Uncle Tom" is not racist, it's just incredibly insulting.  It's like calling him a traitor. 

Calling Frazier a gorilla before fight III in Manilla was not a coincidence, and it wasn't racist, unless you're trying to say "Muhammad Ali thinks black men are big, stupid, and ugly."  If that's the case, then I guess you also think he was calling all black men beautiful and pretty because he called himself that.

He used "gorilla" because

a.  He's calling Frazier dumb

b.  He's calling Frazier ugly

c.  He wanted to pick something that rhymes with "Manilla".

If you can come up with a good alternative to "gorilla" that meets all three of those characteristics, be my guest. 

If he'd called him a gorilla before a fight in, say, Kansas City, London, Cairo, or for that matter ANYPLACE NOT RHYMING WITH GORILLA, maybe it would have been over the top.  But it still wouldn't have been racist unless you're saying he thought the same of other black people.  Racism is a generalization, it's attributing characteristics to an entire race or ethnicity.   Punching a little gorilla was just taunting and psyching out an opponent. 

 EDIT:  on the other hand, if Ali had said "I'm gonna whup your half-breed ass," I would stipulate that it qualifies as overtly racist in the sense that "breed" doesn't reference anything other than racial identity.  Except he didn't say that to Frazier. Frazier said it to him.


January 17th, 2012 at 5:59 PM ^

My favorite professional athlete of all-time and it's not even close.

He makes athletes today look utterly shallow and cowardly.