To me Muhammad Ali was the greatest. Not really because of the fighting. I find fighting barbaric really. But when I was a young girl I watched him fight and I watched him talk. I came to love him for his talking and his banter with the late Howard Cosell. I see the genius and the genuine love in that relationship now.
When I was a kid our home revolved around sports. My dad ruled the tv and we got to watch our shows when he wasn’t watching either news or sports or the occasional sitcom – he didn’t like too many of those.
If you wanted to watch tv you watched what dad was watching. So I watched a lot of sports and because of that I continue to watch sports. I get comfort from it. I sort of find it funny that coming from a sometimes very chaotic home that I took sports as a thing of comfort with me into the future. I think it’s BC it was a time of bonding with my dad. A time when there wasn’t arguing or me feeling like I didn’t fit in.
As a girl I was sort of foreign to my dad BC I was a girl. As a wimpy cry baby girl I was even more alien to him -he didn’t know what to do with all that. I had a younger brother who was much less alien and more relatable to my dad than I was. Perhaps my love of watching sports ( I played some sports but honestly they were just for fun) comes from the fact that sports watching was a time that my being alien wasn’t an issue. We all sat and watched together and rooted together. I can’t count how many Redskins games I watched with my dad and how many we attended together. Even now if we get together we inevitably will watch a sports game. It’s become a common bond in a way.
So I remember Mohammed Ali so well. We would watch his interviews with Cosell and laugh at his chants a rhymes. We would mimic his famous phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee….” We would watch his fights or if I couldn’t stay up for a fight I would hear my dad cheering in the family room. There are many hours of me hearing sports from the confines of my room. Me laying in bed under my pink sheets in my pink room with pink paisley border-door open because I was afraid to close it at night- listening to my dad watching sports. It’s when he seemed most happy I think. Sports brings him joy in a way that other things might not.
I am finding myself very saddened by the loss of Ali. I think for me his death represents the fast passing of time. The little girl who wanted so much to be part of her fathers life is now grown and still feels the same. Where did those years go? I wonder if Ali felt the same.
That little girl that revered this black fighter and laughed at his rants and rhymes didn’t realize he was a one of the first gorilla marketers before that was even a thing. She didn’t really know what he stood for in the world of black people and in the history of fighting. She just knew her dad loved watching him so she loved him. And that young girl -now woman – feels the passing deeply. She will never forget the cheers from that family room -someone else’s room now. She will never forget the laughs this fighter brought to her life and she will never forget her dads joy.