• My Muhammad Ali Connection

    In our upstairs den is a framed artifact that Kerry gave to me for my birthday 20 years ago when we still lived in Seattle. She was pregnant with our oldest daughter who would be born a couple of months later. I’ve walked past “the gift” well over a couple of thousand times in the last decade alone – and like a lot of things in all of our homes – it has gone virtually unnoticed.  That was until yesterday – when I visited it as a destination – and admittedly got emotional thinking about its power, it’s connection and how awe inspiring I saw it to be all so suddenly. And I suppose in some ways, I welled up because I took a very special moment for granted.

    You see – somehow back in 1996, I was given the good fortune of being selected as a torchbearer escort for the Olympic relay – which essentially gave me the honor of running alongside 3 different torchbearers over the course of about 2 miles in a small town just south of Tacoma, WA. Unsolicited, each individual was kind enough to hand me the torch (literally) and let me run with it as well – (yes, people really are that generous).  Essentially, the torch got lit in Athens, was run across Greece, flown to L.A. and then up and down and all across the United States on its way to Atlanta.  (See the whole routeHERE if interested)

    Each of us got to wear a short and T-Shirt combo that is decidedly retro – and better off enclosed in glass for more than a couple of reasons.

    Fast forward a couple of months to July  1996 when it seemed the entire country watched in anticipation as the Olympic Committee – amidst a domestic terror attack – did an absolutely amazing job in hiding who the final recipient of the torch would be – the one who would get to light the final Torch.

    Hence my reaction yesterday morning when I learned of Muhammad Ali’s passing. For those of you who don’t remember the drama of the moment back in 1996, click the photo below and watch the story unfold.

    There are so many wonderful tributes being offered on social media these past 24/36 hours – but my soon to be 20 year old forwarded me what I think is the most poignant –  It’s a paraphrased tweet  “Don’t judge folks by the eloquence of their tributes to Ali, but how they would treat a 20 year old version of him now”.
    Ali was not without controversy – in fact he embraced it.  But – what allowed him to standout was his authenticity, his tenacity and his conviction.
    As we mourn the loss of this legend – we need to recognize that there are legends in waiting.  The children of this nation need the opportunity to play, to compete and to have fun doing it.  Maybe it’s boxing, maybe it’s fencing, maybe it’s dancing,  or gymnastics, maybe it’s soccer, or maybe it’s basketball – but every single one of them should have the opportunity to find out…to see if they can float like a butterfly or sting like a bee.
    Yep – I tend to get a little sentimental over moments like this when I recognize the full circle connection of my life to the lives of others.  This is a big ole country and I got to pass the torch that one of the most iconic athletes of our time eventually received on the other side of this land of ours.  I suppose in some ways, he is now passing it back to us.   At 28 years old, I didn’t recognize the power of that moment.  At 48 – I do.
    I owe it to him to find the “Greatness” in all the children I’ll have the privilege of working with in days to come.
    Rest in Peace Mohammed Ali.
    Steve Boyle
Comments are closed.