As many of you are aware, I have a standing offer of free blog space for my friends and co-workers who might be interested in writing something but don't have an outlet for it. The other day I received an e-mail from Felix Rodriguez, a good co-worker of mine, who was gracious enough to give me permission to reprint it here.
I originally wrote a very nice review of his book "Dad, Me and Muhammad Ali" for my blog, and from time to time, he has sent me links to other book reviews and interviews that he has given. I would check out the links, then update that particular post so that other people could enjoy the links as well.
So when this latest e-mail came, I looked forward to reading it, because not only do I think Felix is a good writer, but he's very passionate about his subject, which is Muhammad Ali. The newspaper that he mentions, Friends Magazine, is a free local monthly.
In his own words, here is his very fine rebuttal to an article entitled "Great Champ Can Be A Royal Pain." His rebuttal is entitled, "Friends Can Be A Royal Pain."
This is my response to a recent article titled “Great champ can be a royal pain.” Its unfortunate when the editor of Friends Magazine (a monthly free local newspaper) poorly describes why then Cassius Clay, Jr., changed his name to Muhammad Ali and fails to mention that Ali did not want to be known for his ancestors given slave name. What was wrong with that? While growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali witnessed racism firsthand even after winning the 1960 Olympic Gold Medal representing the United States. Ali was refused food service at a local restaurant because he was black. How would you feel Mr. Editor?
Shoulder up, left foot forward. Left jab, right cross.
The editor mentions Ali's refusal to fight for his country in Vietnam. Again, he failed to mention how Ali believed the war was against his religious beliefs. But more importantly, he was opposed to killing innocent people. Ali once said, “I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people...” As the war took its death toll on so many young American soldiers, the war became unpopular and Ali transformed into a hero for standing up for what he truly believed. Millions of college students across the country joined in Ali's sentiments. And what the editor also failed to highlight was the fact that Ali lost millions of dollars in boxing earnings for his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army.
Two lefts, head snap.
Fact check: in the article the editor notes that Ali's decision cost him four years in the ring. Wrong, it was three and a half years. His last official fight before being banned from boxing was against Zora Folley on March 22, 1967 in New York, NY, and he returned to the ring on October 26, 1970 against "The Great White Hope" Jerry Quarry.
The article continues and this is when it hit me hard, but I am not going down. I am dazed and a bit confused, but I immediately gather my balance and composure. I bob and weave. The editor writes 'Ali was honored in the Brass City recently led by the Waterbury Police Activity League. Its tribute to Ali is contrary to the mission of promoting family values exemplify, which the boxing champ did not embody.' Are you kidding me? Seriously, where have you been? Ali is compassionate, giving (literally giving away thousands of dollars) and a timeless role model.
What’s my name sucka?
He adds ‘Ali’s personal life was a wreck. He married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. Two of the children from extramarital relationships.’ No, you did not go there.
I am doing the Ali shuffle now.
As human beings we all have our shortcomings. My mother was never married. I grew up in a fatherless home with seven siblings. Does that mean our life was a wreck? And the editor failed to mention that one of Ali's children is adopted. He embraced a child who was in need of a family and love, which Ali is full of. Ali loves his kids. In his book “The Soul Of A Butterfly” Ali admits to not being a good parent. He wrote ‘I was not a good parent as I wanted to be –as my children deserved.’ Ali continued, ‘I tried to be a great boxer and a good parent, too. I had instant feedback on my success as a boxer. Often, parents don’t really know if what they are doing is right or wrong until their child is grown and it is too late to change any of the decisions. Whatever my failings as a parent, I am very proud of all of my children. It wasn’t easy for them to make their own way with such a controversial and public father.’
Two rights, head snap.
Ali had his flaws. After all he is human. He is an inspiration not only to his own children, but for millions of people across the globe. He made people believe in themselves and encouraged them to be as great as they can be. He taught his children by example not to bow to an unjust system.
Stick and move. Stick and move.
Lastly, the editor writes that Ali toyed with the "Lion of Flanders" Jean-Pierre Coopman, in Puerto Rico in 1975 and states that Ali displayed his meanness when there was no reason to torture his hapless opponent. It's boxing! What did you expect for Ali to do? Hold his hand and sing Kumbayah? Ali said it best, "It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I just beat up people."
Get up! Get up! I am the Greatest!
Mr. Editor, you're entitled to your opinion and I respect that, but I refuse to stand idly by when someone even if it’s a friend bashes my hero who is now a silent warrior. He may not be able to verbally defend himself, but he has an army of followers who will happily stand up for him because he is still the People's Champ!