Thousands are heading to Louisville, Kentucky this week to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali.
Ali will never be forgotten. He shook up the world and the world is a better place.
I drove by the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky Saturday and Sunday. People were standing in the rain with umbrellas. Flowers left at the center could be seen from the highway. I've been in the center before. It's an astonishing museum built to honor an astonishing individual.
I grew up watching Ali on ABC television. He was a real eyebrow raiser. I had never seen anyone brag like Ali before. Humility was not in his vocabulary and it was okay because he was a thrill to watch.
The Internet and libraries are yet to see the mega volumes of columns, books and opinions still to be written about Ali. Few people have accomplished so much in such a short period of time. He is the greatest boxing champion in the history of boxing. Ali's universal appeal is intriguing. He was a Muslim and I haven't heard anybody say anything against him because of his religion. People of all religions and nationalities seem to embrace Ali. I realize there are always a few holdouts who hate everybody but overall Ali was embraced and loved around the world. We should love all people and all religions should promote love and peace. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.
We know there have been times back when things were not so great for Ali. For three years he was banned from boxing because of his objection to Vietnam and his refusal to serve in the military. This still bugs people to this day.
My wife's grandfather was held as a prisoner of war in the Philippines for almost four years. He survived the Bataan death march and endured a cruel and tortuous experience at the hands of the Japanese. One thousand Americans and nine thousand Filipinos died during this barbaric 65-mile walk without food or water. Many were bayoneted or shot along the walk. Eleven thousand five hundred Americans, who survived the walk, died during their imprisonment. Nobody liked this. Fortunately, Lyle Harlow survived the imprisonment to come back home.
My brother spent a year in Vietnam. None of us enjoyed those twelve months. My neighbor down the road from me was killed in Vietnam. We wept and grieved through that experience. I don't remember anybody craving to join the military when I was in high school. I don't remember anybody hoping to be drafted. People went to college all the time hoping to avoid the draft but then were drafted as soon as they graduated. Most everybody hated the Vietnam War. People still suffer today who had to go there or who lost family members in Vietnam.
Ali was just more brash and determined to resist the status quo in his day. He refused to go and paid a small price of missing three years of boxing. Many others went and never lived to come home to their families. Ali's sacrifice pale's greatly in comparison to what so many have given for this country.
Ali did what every American is entitled to do and that is freely state his opinions. He made a determination to not serve the military and everyone else has the freedom to form their own opinions about him.
Today, he is iconic. Because of his phenomenal boxing success, his charisma, his ability to entertain and put action behind his words he will forever be a world figure and a sports hero in the eyes of so many.
For many years, Louisville will be a destination to celebrate and honor Ali as the greatest sports figure of all time. I agree with this and I'll be one of those in the masses sharing in that celebration.