What Muhammad Ali Meant To Me And The Social Media Lessons We Can Learn From Him

That some title isn’t it? If you’re going to talk about the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali, you need to have a title that’s fitting. The Champ is definitely in my top five favorite people that I never got to meet of all time. I’m going to tell you why.

Muhammad Ali Signature
Creative Commons License Mehmet Goroglu via Compfight

My dad came home from Vietnam in September 1970. At least that’s what I first saw him, because it turns out he had actually come back to the United States in July to have an operation on his shoulder. He showed up at the front door in September just as I was starting sixth grade. By December, we were packing everything up and moving from Kansas City, where I lived in a ghetto for the year he was gone, to Loring AFB in Limestone Maine, which was putting me in a drastically different environment that anything I had experienced before and anything I would experience after.

Basically, I had gone from a school that was all black except for one Mexican kid to a school on a military base in northern Maine that was the smallest school I’d ever go to with a mixed population that I had no idea how to deal with after what I’ve gone through in Kansas City.

The kids in Kansas City hated me because I had a better education than they ever would, and I also had a full school year where I had no classes because the school couldn’t take time trying to teach me when they had all those other kids to deal with. I went from that to suddenly being back among a population I should’ve been used to, but I wasn’t really ready for them. I also wasn’t used to being in classes and having to try to remember how to study and learn again.

I don’t know whether my dad planned it or whether it was something that just came to me because that’s how the family dynamic worked, but Dad started talking about a boxer named Muhammad Ali. He first mentioned Ali while we were still in Kansas City and he started talking about him more often because of an upcoming fight between him Joe Frazier, who I had absolutely no idea who he was at the time.

Dad talked about him in very positive ways, and in retrospect that was probably an amazing thing because Ali had basically just come off of 3 1/2 years outside of boxing because he’d refused to join the military and go to Vietnam, whereas my dad had joined the Army at age 17 and had been in both Vietnam and Korea. I started to see Ali on TV and understood why my dad liked him so much.

Kryptonite
Toru Okada via Compfight

It didn’t matter that the first fight I actually got to hear of his (back then big fights were on closed-circuit TV so you had to listen to the radio to find out what happened at the end of every round while the fight was happening) he happened to lose to Frazier. Actually, most of us thought he had won that fight because that was the narrative, and even after watching it years later there are a lot of us who thought Ali had actually won that fight even though he did get knocked down in the 15th round. What mattered to us is that he had taken a stand for a lot of things we thought were right, and he had so much charisma that it was hard to find things that we disagreed with him on enough for us to not like him.

One other thing that was very appealing was that he was not afraid of his blackness, which was a big deal to someone like me who was just getting ready to hit puberty and wasn’t sure how to deal with military kids who hadn’t been what I’ve been through in Kansas City. The strange thing is that even though the kids in KC hated me, I saw a lot of things that made a strong impact on my life. Along with discussions with my dad, these things got me to embrace the fact that I was a black kid in America and that I would have to try to be better than everyone else and have confidence in myself just to have a chance to compete for whatever I decided I wanted to do. That lesson turned out to be true.

Eventually we came to New York, and things were even stranger for me. I went from the smallest school system I’ve ever been in to the largest school system I’ve ever been in. Out of a school with around 3800 students there were fewer than 50 black students. Once again, the way I coped mentally with it most of the time was to rely on my thoughts of Muhammad Ali.

I did the same when I finally went to college and had an even less ratio of black to white when I first got there. Until my senior year of college, the only poster I ever had with a person in it on my wall was Muhammad Ali fighting Joe Frazier, and I tilted the poster so that Ali looked even bigger than he already was while fighting Frazier.

I started becoming more comfortable in my own skin at the beginning of my junior year of college, which was close to the time that Ali was close to leaving the profession of boxing. Normally when an athlete leaves their sport and you don’t see or hear of them as much, you start to move on to other people. Yet, Muhammad Ali was a different sort. He never went away, and even though he suffered from Parkinson’s disease he was still somehow in my life and the lives of others over the course of the next 36 years until he passed away last Friday night at age 74.

Just to get this out of the way, I mentioned my top five people that I never got to meet. Those five people are Roberto Clemente, Michael Jackson, Wilt Chamberlain, Frederick Douglass and Muhammad Ali. As often as I’ve written about Martin Luther King, Jr, he actually comes in at #6. 🙂

I’m not sure if I’ve properly explained why Muhammad Ali meant so much to me, and if you have questions you can ask me and I’ll try to explain it further.I figure that now it’s time for me to talk about Ali and some social media lessons that all of us can learn from his life.

Inspiration
Creative Commons License Exile on Ontario St via Compfight

1. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

There were two Muhammad Ali’s.

The first was the showman, the huckster, the guy who built up the product so much that it drew in lots of people. Many of those people wanted to see him get his comeuppance, but he didn’t care about that. He was the first million dollar fighter because he knew how to capture people’s attention.

If I own up to failing at anything as it regards social media, it’s that I’m not willing to push the envelope as far as needed to get publicity. I’ve always hoped that my writing would eventually carry me to great heights in the world of blogging but after all these years I’m realizing that I’m nowhere close to where I want to be because the overwhelming majority of people who write about people who know something about blogging don’t know who I am.

Most people say the money is in the list. Truthfully, the money is in influence more than the list. That’s what Ali had while he was boxing, and it carried over into his retirement. If you knew how many times he used his popularity in the world to save or help someone, as well as to raise money for charity, you couldn’t come close to being impressed enough.

2. Be your authentic self

The second Muhammad Ali was the guy totally comfortable in his skin and in his convictions. Hate him or not, when he latched onto an idea he was willing to take his chances with whatever came up, no matter whether it impacted his life positively or negatively.

In that regard, becoming the first major athlete to declare his transference to Islam was a big deal in his day. He went from beloved to hated within 24 hours, but he didn’t care. Years later when he decided he wasn’t participating in the war and not taking the oath to be drafted, he was not only hated even more than before but he lost his career and livelihood and almost went to jail for it.

Over the course of his years he might have said some controversial things, some he was correct on and others he wasn’t, but in the moment he truly believed in each and every thing he said and was willing to deal with the consequences of it all. Isn’t that what I was talking about last week when I referred to freedom of speech?

3. If you’re authentic, people will embrace you if you change your mind.

I mentioned Ali saying some controversial things. Let’s get some of that out of the way:


https://youtu.be/HqiWFLsgVi4

During my formative years, it seemed that everything Ali said about race was absolutely correct. He said some negative things about Jewish people that didn’t mean anything to me because I didn’t even know what a Jewish person was until I was in college. He had some thoughts about women that I never heard at the time either but those beliefs all turned out to be wrong as well.

The first thing is that he was authentic in his beliefs. He really thought these things and believed them with all his heart. However, once his boxing career was on the wane, the Nation of Islam stopped having such a hold on him, and he started reading the Koran for himself and his most extreme views went away, just like they did for Malcolm X. The Ali I really started to admire was the one who talked about love, respect for all religions, people getting along together, and taking active steps to show how his beliefs changed instead of just talking about them.

There have been a few writers this weekend who tried to talk about the “bad Ali”, the one who said all those things. Those few voices have been drowned out by the very people he used to condemn as being evil because they saw the metamorphosis in the man and all the good he did.

This is a great lesson for all of us to remember. If we’re authentic we might have people who dislike us every once in a while but at least we’re being honest. We’re also not trying to hurt anyone because Ali never meant to hurt anyone; he was trying to uplift a people he truly felt was subjugating itself, which is something I do here and there on my business blog. When he learned different lessons, he didn’t just soften his words and beliefs but tossed them out for a better life and a better world, and he brought others along with him.

This is my tribute to Muhammad Ali, a man I wish I could have thanked for helping me get through a tough part of my life. I’m glad he’s finally at physical peace as he already was mentally. There will never be another like him.
 

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My Thoughts On Joe Frazier

I hated Joe Frazier.

It was 1971, and I knew that Muhammad Ali was going to be fighting Joe Frazier. Ali was one of my idols; he’s still one of my idols. I was 11 years old, had just moved to a new place 3 months earlier and was struggling to get used to it, and one of my heroes was going to prove that he’d been wronged by so many people years earlier. I didn’t know as much about that, but I did know that Ali was my guy; he was my dad’s guy as well.

Back then I had a couple of transistor radios, and I listened to the play-by-play of the fight from New York City. What would happen is that you’d listen to a lot of talk, then after the round was over someone would tell you what happened and give you his opinion on who won the round. Early on it was all Ali, and I was ecstatic. Then things seemed to have changed, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then I heard the news – Frazier knocks Ali down in the 15th and wins the decision.

I was bitter. A year later they put the fight on ABC and I thought Ali had won, I hated Frazier that much. But it was what it was, and I knew Ali would get him back.

However, there was this little matter of Frazier – Foreman, and as I saw that fith I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Foreman actually looked like he lifted Frazier off the ground; it was frightening. That day I felt sorry for Frazier, scared for Ali because I knew he’d be getting his shot against Foreman, and I was confused.

Then Ali and Frazier fought again, and it was a tough battle that saw Ali win. Then Ali goes and beats Foreman and it was time for the Thrilla in Manila. My support for Ali couldn’t be questioned; the “Gorilla”, as Ali had named Frazier, had to go down. I was lucky to have HBO in 1976 and we got to watch the fight live. What an epic battle, ranked as one of the top fights in history, and Ali won in 14 after Frazier’s corner refused to let him come out for the last round.

At the end of that fight I was elated for Ali but had a new appreciation for Joe Frazier. This man, who never weighed more than 208 pounds for any of his fights, had shown a lot of dignity, even in his 4 losses, two to Ali and two to Foreman. He wasn’t a bad man; not at all. Back then, there were all these social issues that always surrounded Ali, and Frazier got caught up in them. I saw him as a decent man, and couldn’t hate him anymore.

Over the years after he finally retired I saw a guy fighting to find some dignity because of the taunting that Ali had put him through. I learned of all the help Frazier gave Ali and how he always felt betrayed by Ali. He never could figure out that without Ali their fights might not have gotten as much interest and money as they did. I felt bad for that but I also recognized how hurtful it had to be for a black man to have another black man relate him to a gorilla; I wouldn’t have liked that either.

Joe Frazier passed away a couple of days ago of liver cancer. Like the dignified guy he always had been, word didn’t get out until he was in hospice, and he wasn’t there long. People said they’d give him their liver, but of course it doesn’t work that way. Just like that Frazier was gone at age 67. Muhammad Ali said this: “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”

Joe Frazier earned a lot more respect in retirement than he did during his boxing career, and in retrospect that’s a shame. But that’s what the 70’s were like. And now we’re dealing with the 2010’s. And we’ve lost a good guy; best to you Joe.
 

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It Pays To Be Bad Sometimes

You know, I really didn’t want to talk about this Tiger Woods thing because, overall, I don’t care who he’s been with or anything else. Yes, he’s let a lot of people down, especially with how he’d built himself up as this paragon of virtue and dedication only to his sport and his wife, and to see all of that come crashing down is depressing in some fashion.

But the truth is that he’s an athlete who owes none of us anything. He never had any moral authority like one of my childhood heroes Jesse Jackson, or a politician like Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina. Tiger Woods ends up being Muhammad Ali (another childhood hero) in a way; heck, that could end up paying off well for him in the end.

See, here’s the thing. Over the past two weeks, I’d been wondering why all these women were coming out saying they’d had sex with Tiger; let’s call it what it is, instead of saying he “slept” with women. Heck, I’ve slept with women in my lifetime and none of it involved sex; yeah, I’m pathetic, but trustworthy. 🙂 Anyway, it had been troubling me the first week. Then one of my friends on Facebook talked about it, so I came out saying I just don’t get what these skanks could get out of it; yeah, I called them skanks. She didn’t have an answer either. So I went and mentioned it on Twitter, and I got my answer; money!

Oh yeah, the mighty dollar. Most of these women got paid to tell their story. Some of them, it seems, had been paid before by Tiger; they got him co… no, I’m not going to say that, as that jokes way too easy. Let’s just say they’re getting paid twice for having sex with him, well, once, twice, twenty times… who knows?

Most of them are getting paid. Some are getting paid really well. Some say they’re not getting paid, but then why the heck would they come out and say this stuff? That’s really the main question at this point; if they’re not getting money, what’s in it for them to come out and admit that their tramps, skanks, and sluts (as opposed to ho’s, because ho’s readily admit they get paid)?

Tiger gets his share of the blame here, but, as I said, this really isn’t a story about him as much as it’s a story about being bad. Let’s take a quick look at our short list of sex scandals, shall we?

Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, got out of it by paying off the person accusing him, and is now not only the best basketball player in the NBA, but has endorsement deals paying him more than he was getting paid beforehand. Why? Because just being accused of that heinous act gave him what’s known as street cred (credibility, for those in other countries who might not be up on the lingo), and suddenly it was cool for guys in the ‘hood to wear his gear.

Ashley Dupre, the young prostitute that brought down the governor of New York Eliot Spitzer, is now writing a column for the New York Post. Of all things, she’s giving sex and relationship advice. Of course, I’m sure she sees this as a major fall in cash, since she was making about $5,000 a pop as a prostitute (man, I can’t help myself; the puns are there), but at least she now has a steady job, even if she’s prostituting herself in a much different way (it is the Post after all).

Jerry Springer was mayor of Cincinnati when he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. That wasn’t the worst of it, though; he actually wrote her a check! Now Jerry Springer makes around $20 million a year at least, writes a column for some newspaper, has had a couple of legit TV gigs here and there, and, well, he hasn’t gone too far from the sex now has he?

Mark Fuhrman, the detective in the O.J. Simpson case who was quoted saying all those racial epithets on tape and pretty much sealed the case in O.J.’s favor has made quite a nice living as a fiction writer. A couple of his books have gone to number one on the best seller’s list; he wasn’t making that much on a cop’s salary, that’s for sure.

Who really knew who Paris Hilton (she’s “hot”; lol) was until a video of her popped up showing that she had some skills doing, uhhh… well, you know what she was doing. She was someone else who was already rich, though it was daddy’s money, but she turned that one indiscretion into her own multi-million money making venture which includes fashion, perfumes, TV, modeling, movies and music; okay, she’s not making millions off the albums, although she did have one song to to number one on the dance chart. But the thing is that this is millions she’s making on her own, to the tune of almost $35 million a year, thus she hasn’t had to touch her trust fund, which is estimated to be in the 9 figures somewhere.

And we have Kim Kardashian, who turned her little home video into an empire that has made her a very rich woman. I mean, TV, modeling, fashion, and almost anything else you can think of, and that backside… let’s not go there except to say she replaced Jennifer Lopez in that area and leave it at that.

See, notoriety didn’t hurt any of these people. None of them, other than Kobe Bryant, were even in the consciousness of most of us until we heard about these indiscretions, and look where they are now. Heck, even Eliot Spitzer is now writing a column for Slate Magazine, a mag I’ve never heard of until he signed up with them, and now he appears on TV shows talking politics all the time, probably making more money than he ever was going to make as governor; not that he wasn’t already rich, by the way.

I guess this really is the way of the world, as even the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, is dealing with his own sex issue, as well as a corruption scandal. But he’s 71; he might not have enough time to capitalize on his bad fortune, though he really doesn’t need to. After all, not only is he rich, but he got rich through sex, in a way, so he already knew the game before he decided to get into politics.

Man, why do I have my own sense or morals? Maybe I could be rich by now, flying all over the world having all sorts of fun because people want to know what I’m doing because of my indiscretion. Could I deal with a week or so of bad publicity to turn it around and make millions later on? Is there such a thing as bad publicity? Do we really think this little bit of negative publicity Tiger Woods is going through right now is going to make him less of a golfer, and thus earn him even more money later on? And, if his wife leaves him, he’ll be free to party like it’s 1999; hey, we can still sing that song, right?

By the way, today it was announced the Accenture had dropped him as one of their spokesmen, saying he doesn’t represent their values. How many of you remember how Accenture came to be anyway; talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

After Sire’s big blog post last week that generated himself a ton of new publicity, maybe he can tell us how to do it honestly, although I’m betting these other folks had way more fun in how they generated theirs.

Talking about publicity; y’all know I just can’t stay away from Muppet videos, and this one has been all over the internet, it’s great, and now it’s on my blog; enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody.

Muppets From Space

Muppets From Space

Price – $8.48


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