Hey Champ! I yelled as I was walking through an airport.
He stopped, looked over, waved at me and struck his Ali fight pose. You know, the one that you weren't sure if he was going to hug you or hit you with a strong left hook. Then, he smiled and as I started to walk away I saw he was engulfed by a pack of people.
I sat in a restaurant a few weeks ago with two people in their mid 20's who were wanting to start their own business.
Towards the end of their discussion one of them asked me a question:
You're a boomer, right?
Why is your generation so critical of mine?
I thought for a few seconds
Maybe it's because you are confident and you know what you want so early in life. I can tell you most of my generation struggled at your age.
As I was driving home I thought of him. Confident, self assured, never backing down, always ready to let you know what he thought and what he believed.
It was 1964.
He'd just knocked out Sonny Liston for the world heavy weight championship.
I was a hair over 10 at the time so staying up to listen to the fight on the wasn't going to happen. I had to wait until the next morning.
I didn't need the newspaper or radio to tell me the outcome.
He got lucky!!
My dads generation didn't care for him. They called him cocky and uppity. He didn't fit the profile.
I loved him.
Throughout his career he stuck his neck out and used his talent and brains to back up his predictions. He never backed down from what he believed and throughout his career he was either loved or reviled.
I have no quarrel with them Vietcong.
He was stripped of his title and called a draft dodger. My dad's generation was gleeful. They proclaimed themselves justified.
I could write forever about the positive impact he had on my life and the lives of so many others in my generation. Mostly, I consider myself fortunate to have been witness to his life and his career.
He taught me to stand up for what you believe in and to never back down.
Lost in all his rhetoric was the fact that he was able to back up everything he said with hard work and perseverance.
To so much "sizzle" in this world he was "the steak."
He has always been The Champ.
He always will be.