My all time sports hero is without a doubt Muhammad Ali. I missed his prime as a boxer the mid- 1960’s but was on board when he returned from being banned from fighting due to his refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War.

Ali was more than just some fighter, he was bigger than his sport. He was the original trash talker. When he passed away last June he was a beloved figure. He had been silenced by Parkinson’s his last few decades. Some people forgot how controversial he was- the most controversial sports figure in a very controversial time. No one was in the middle ground back in the 60’s and 70’s concerning Ali. You loved him or hated him. I have an uncle who to this day hates Ali. A few Christmas’s ago I brought up his name and as soon as I did I regretted it. My uncle went on a 5 minute tirade against him. He gave him credit as a great boxer but went on and on about how he should have served in Vietnam etc. Before he refused induction into the military he first angered people by becoming a Muslim and changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Then there was his mouth which never stopped. He would predict the round in which he’d beat his next opponent. He was the master at drumming up interest in his fights.

Like most fighters he fought too long. Looking back maybe he should have retired after the Rumble In the Jungle when he won back the Heavyweight Championship with his upset over Champ George Foreman. The fight  everyone looks back on is the Ali- Frazier III- Thrilla In Manila. That was a most brutal fight. It has been written that after that fight certainly neither man was ever the same in the boxing ring- but also were never the same men. The fight took something out of both men health-wise. Both went on fighting because that is what they did but neither man was ever the same again.

The above t-shirt with Muhammad and Malcolm X- I like because it makes me remember the controversial Ali. I certainly respect our veterans who did serve in Vietnam. No disrespect meant to them but Muhammad was right on Vietnam. It may not have seemed that way at the time but I think 50 years later he was proven correct. Every time I go to Washington, D.C. and visit the Vietnam Memorial I see those 58,000 names on the wall and think of the lives that were ended and all the other lives that were altered by a war that we had no business being involved in.