Others will speak or write more eloquently about Ali’s impact on our world, his legacy. I can only say that I have always aspired to put him – Ali the warrior, anyway -- into my writing, in ways both subtle and obvious. There’s a great clip of him on YouTube, in a meaningless exhibition fight (and not in his best shape) dodging 21 punches in a row with ease. He had a gift for making his opponents swing where he wasn’t and for bringing his own punches from places they couldn’t predict. At his best, he was, as he famously suggested, invisible. He was not the hardest puncher in heavyweight history, but his combination of speed and tactical creativity along with the power he did possess was more than most fighters could handle.
When I reflect on him today, it occurs to me there’s the first of anything and everyone else is a follower – the first Disney, the first black President, the first international sports star and humanitarian. There’s no shame in being a follower; I’m a follower myself. But oh, how inspiring is the leader, that person without precedent or peer.
We lost one of those this week, and the world seems a little more ordinary for it.