Muhammad Ali was a boxer by profession and a show man by nature, but behind the mouth and the show was an intelligent and thoughtful man, whose actions spoke louder than words… and his words were louder than most.
From throwing off his slave name, the controversy of joining the Nation of Islam and his refusal to accept conscription into the US Army at the time of the Vietnam War, Ali kept the headline writers busy just as much outside the ring as inside it.
Ali remained popular public figure right to the end, being selected as the physical embodiment of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, lighting the Olympic Torch in Atlanta in 1996, winning BBC’s Sports Personality of the Century in 1999, and being bearer of the Olympic flag for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Parkinson’s disease which blighted the last thirty years of his life prevented him from carrying the flag into the Olympic stadium that night and was responsible for a number of health scares in the years leading up to his death yesterday.
Ali quotations are legion. Was there ever a more quotable sportsman? The most pertinent for today though, is one that he selected as his epitaph many years ago on the David Frost show. When asked how he wanted to be remembered when he was gone Ali replied:
“He took a few cups of love.
He took one tablespoon of patience,
One teaspoon of generosity,
One pint of kindness.
He took one quart of laughter,
One pinch of concern.
And then, he mixed willingness with happiness.
He added lots of faith,
And he stirred it up well.
Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime,
And he served it to each and every deserving person he met”
It seems entirely appropriate.
RIP Muhammad Ali.