He’s simply known as “The Greatest.” And with that, one knows right away who the center of attention is. Muhammad Ali was always the center of attention, even in defeat. And today, while visiting the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix, AZ, despite being crippled by the disabling effects of Parkinson’s Disease, Ali is still at the center of attention.
“His presence is just something that’s difficult to articulate, “ said Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. “It was unbelievable. One of the greatest athletes and most iconic figures of our generation.”
Ali was always bigger than life, and to this day, that remains true. His impact on boxing made him one of the greatest ever. His impact on the world is why he’s still revered wherever he goes.
“You realize how fortunate we are to be in the position we’re in and what an impact we can have we can have on other people’s lives,” said the All-Star Braun. “Muhammad is a classic example of that. He’s been nothing but an incredible humanitarian and everything we aspire to be as athletes.”
And that’s just what Ali’s goal is when he visits with these players as he did on Wednesday with the Brewers, and Tuesday with the White Sox. His message, as part of the group Athletes for Hope is to get the players more involved in the community. Brewers closer John Axford got the message.
“It was a fantastic conversation today. Athletes being able to pull together and come together as one for the community and that’s something we have a responsibility for.”
40 years ago this week, Ali lost to Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden. Boxing was in the beginning stages of the Golden Age of Heavyweights with Ali, Frazier, and George Foreman headlining a decade of fights that took the sport to heights it has, and may never see again. Yet 30 years after he last entered the squared circle, Ali continues to deliver blows to athletes who weren’t even born the last time he fought.
His wife, Lonnie Ali, says the champ gets a kick out of being around “the kids.” “It makes Muhammad feel so wonderful. This is like a generation or two away from him and these guys just give him so much respect and love. Just to be around male athletes who understand what it takes to achieve a goal and perfection and be at the top of the game.”
And while Ali knows maybe better than anyone who has ever lived what it is like to be at the top of the game, he used the game itself to achieve things one would have never dreamed of.
That’s the message Ali is trying to convey. Use the game, not just for fame and fortune, but for things that are bigger than yourself. Because in the long run, how many home runs you hit, or how many games you win doesn’t mean a thing. But how many lives you influence, now there’s a stat you don’t see on the back of a baseball card.
And that’s too bad.
About the Author
Written by Scott Johnston
Scott Johnston is a longtime Sports TV Producer/Writer from Los Angeles who now lives just outside of Boston. After a long career at KCAL-TV in L.A., where Scott covered such things as Kirk Gibson’s HR, Hank Gathers death, and Magic Johnson’s retirement, NBA ll-Star Game MVP performance and subsequent return to the NBA. His favorite team is the Oakland A’s and whomever happens to be playing the Yankees, USC or the Cowboys on that particular day. Scott left his staff position at KCAL and formed his own small production company in 1996 while continuing to freelance there and at other stations, including WTTG in DC for two years. His company, ProTVSports, started out covering one team during Spring Training in 1997 but now covers six of the Cactus League teams. He also covers tennis and golf events during the year and has had the privilege of covering 5 NBA Finals, including two of the last three. Scott loves all sports, but considers baseball to be his favorite. He loves politcs, reading, movies and his wife and two daughters—not in that order!