The NAACP Image awards were on Fox tonight, and while I was doing some web surfing, and a bit of writing, I kept it on in the background. About 90 minutes in, they gave Muhammed Ali the equivalent to a lifetime achievement award, so i stopped what I was doing and watched.
Growing up, he was a hero of mine. I liked his boxing style, his humor and confidence/arrogance. His interviews with Howard Cosell are the stuff of legend. Hell, I even bought the novelty record about him back in the early to mid 70’s. I saw all his fights; Smoking joe fraxier, George Foreman, all of them. He was the consummate athlete-everything i wasn’t-and continue not to be. I knew nothing about his politics, his turning to Islam, his refusal to fight in Vietnam, and the turmoild which followed that.
All I knew at the tender age of 9-10 or so, was he was fast and could kick your ass 10 minutes before you knew what had happened.
On the show tonight, they did the obligatory bio, rehashing his life in a nice 3 minute bite. The lights dimmed a bit, a spotlight came on, and the curtains opened. There he sat, in a white, wing back chair, trying desperately to control the shaking from his Parkinson’s. No longer able to speak, his wife? daughter? (I’m not sure who-they never said who it was), spoke for him. My heart broke, if only for a moment. This was not the man I remembered. This shuddering, twitching shell of a man dressed in a tuxedo and lopsided bow couldn’t have been the hero of my youth.
But it was. And in what may be a final act of heroism, he sat there, shaking and all, determined to be there-even as a mere ghost of who he once was. Oversized black and white photos adorned the stage and the contrast between then and now was palpable.
Jennifer Hudson then came out and sang, The Impossible Dream; perhaps one of my favorite songs, and the tears came. Not just for Ali, who endured being sang to like a nursing home resident on visitors day; but for everyone who has the strength and determination to not go gently into the night.
For the past month as I’ve sent out resume after resume; felt sorry for myself for not having the money to finish my dental work; not being happy with my writing, playing warcraft a bit too much; I’ve been isolating myself. not blogging like I have-or calling friends or family. It’s been a nice little pity party.
Once again Ali showed me that even in the most adverse of times, there should never be shame, never be a rock to hide under. There should always be dignity, and a respect for oneself at all times.