I am currently working on a manuscript for a follow-up book to my debut ODES ON ALI: A Tribute To The Greatest with a working title of MORE ON ALI: Beyond The Odes. Many readers while praising my first effort expressed disappointment that there wasn’t more information and detail on Ali’s life outside of boxing included in the book. Therefore, I am attempting to supply that with my second offering. The going is a little slow, but as always, onward and upward, slow but steady to completion.
As a boy growing up in Texas I loved watching the old movies and television shows about the old west. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott were among the actors starring in this genre who were often referred to as the “King of the Cowboys.” But ask most any rodeo fan and they’ll tell you that the real life “King of the Cowboys” is nine time World Rodeo champion Ty Murray. It seems Murray was born to be a cowboy. After all, his father was a long time rodeo hand and his mother was a rider in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association who won first place in the National little Britches Rodeo in the bull riding competition. Ty’s parents taught him the rodeo fundamentals growing up. As a nine year old school boy. he wrote an essay on wanting to break Larry Mahan’s record for World All-Around Rodeo championships when he grew up. Murray competed in the Arizona High School Rodeo Association where he was the All-Around Champion cowboy and helped lead his high school rodeo team to its first National High School Rodeo Association championship in 1987. He then attended Odessa College in Texas where he helped lead the rodeo team to a title. Upon joining the PRCA, Murray set out to fulfill his childhood dream of breaking Mahan’s record, although it wasn’t just Mahan’s record any longer. Mahan had won five straight World All-Around Rodeo Champion titles from 1966 to 1970 along with a sixth in 1973. Shortly thereafter another cowboy, Tom Ferguson, won his sixth consecutive All-Around title in 1979 eclipsing Mahan’s consecutive title streak and tying his overall titles mark. So with the bar now set slightly higher, Murray began his assault on the record. Ty won six consecutive World All-Around Rodeo Champion titles from ’89 to ’94 to surpass Mahan and tie Ferguson’s record of six consecutive titles. The All-Around cowboy title is awarded to the top money-earner in that year’s PRCA events. Murray, Ferguson, and Mahan all competed in the rough stock events, bull, bareback, and saddle bronc riding. This made their accoplishments easy to compare. After knee and shoulder injuries required numerous surgeries and cost him significant down time over the next three years, Murray returned in ’98 to break his tie with Ferguson by winning his record setting seventh PRCA World All-Around Rodeo Championship. That was when they started calling him “King of the Cowboys.” In ’93 and ’98, Murray also won the PRCA World Bull Riding Championship title. Injuries continued to limit Murray over the next few years. A neck injury in 2002 led Murray to retire from competition. Murray co-founded, competed in, and remains a Board adviser of, the PBR which is the association of Professional Bull Riders. Besides taking care of his ranch in Stephenville, Texas, Murray’s time since retiring from competition is occupied doing television color commentary for PBR events. He met singer Jewel in ’99. The two were married in ’08, had a son, Kase, in ’11, and divorced in ’14. Since Murray’s retiremnt another cowboy, Trevor Brazile, has gone on to surpass Ty Murray’s total of seven World All-Around Rodeo Champion titles.However, many don’t see the accomplishment in the same light, being that Murray, Ferguson, and Larry Mahan earned most of their money in the rough stock riding events, while Brazile’s has come mainly from the roping events. Among the many honors bestowed on Ty Murray over the years are: the Cowboy Capital Walk of Fame in ’88, Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in ’89, Texas Sports HOF in ’99, Pro Rodeo HOF in ’00, Texas Cowboy HOF in ’02, PBR Heroes and Legends Celebration Ring of Honor in ’02, Arizona Sports HOF in ’11, California Rodeo Salinas HOF in ’13, Cheyenne Frontier Days HOF in ’15, and the Texas Rodeo Cowboys HOF in ’16. All of the accomplishments and honors above are why most still consider Ty Murray to be the “King of the Cowboys.”
Where does the time go? It seems like only a week or two since I posted last, not over a month. And it certainly doesn’t seem like two months since my last marketing post. Needless to say, the last two marketing efforts discussed in that post didn’t provide the sales boost I was hoping for. But, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, we mark them down to experience and move on. One positive reason for the blog post neglect has been my working on a varying few of my other writing projects. Still bouncing back and forth between them waiting for one to jump out and take priority. The self-induced pressure to equal or exceed the quality of your previous work can make that choice more difficult. But as every writer knows, the lulls in the action come and go. Just as long as you keep putting ass to seat and hands to keyboard, or pen to paper for us old-schoolers, everything will eventually work out. And hey, at least I squeezed in one blog post for July. That said, onward and upward.
I recently wrote a post touting Serina Williams as the greatest female tennis player of all-times. I acknowledged there were arguments that could be made for Steffi Graf, Margaret Court, and Martina Navratilova. But I believed Serina had done enough to separate herself from the others. When it comes to the men however, I don’t believe a clear standout exists. Therefore, I haven’t as of yet written a piece on the all-time greatest male tennis player. I believe there can be legitimate cases made for a number of men including Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and even Novak Djokovic. The wide variety of supporting arguments include number of Grand Slam wins, quality of competition, doubles participation, type of equipment used, and longevity just to name a few. But after this past Sunday, there can be no doubt or argument about it, Raphael Nadal is the king of the clay. By winning his unprecedented tenth French Open title, Raphael Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all-times. No one in tennis has dominated one surface the way “Rafa” has owned the clay over the course of his career. His numbers are indisputable and unprecedented. Over thirteen years to date, his numbers are incredible: 10 French Open titles, 52 singles titles, a .916 win %, a 100-2 record in 5 set matches, only taken to 5 sets twice in French Open matches, never lost a French Open final. He has also dominated the clay court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Barcelona that lead up to the French Open with record numbers of wins in them as well. After a couple of down years mainly due to nagging injuries, many had written Nadal off as a Grand Slam threat, even in the French. But after his totally dominating play with no sets lost in the tournament, and only 6 games dropped in his three set sweep of the final, the future looks bright once again for Nadal. Now alone in 2nd place behind only Federer (17) with 15 total Grand Slam titles overall, Nadal is in the thick of the discussion for overall greatest of all-times. But without a doubt, for all of the above and more, Raphael “Rafa” Nadal is the greatest clay court tennis player of all-times.
As we arrive at the first anniversary of the passing of the Greatest Of All-Time, the honors and tributes to Muhammad Ali continue to come in with no end in sight. In late April he was honored, along with tennis legend Serena Williams at the annual Jesse Owens International Athlete Trophy awards given to sports legends who exemplify the ideals embodied by Olympian and humanitarian Jesse Owens: integrity, perseverance and service. Filmmaker Spike Lee had the honor of presenting some members of Ali’s family with the Jesse Owens Global Peace Award recognizing the late boxing legend’s commitment to peace and justice outside the ring. Another of the many new books on Ali’s life coming out focuses on the years during Ali’s battle with U.S. government over his refusal of military induction. The book is entitled “Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs The United States of America, 1966-1971” and was written by Leigh Montville. Finally, what is perhaps the most unique of the latest stories honoring Ali is the one written by Tom Junod that will appear in the June 12th World Fame issue of ESPN The Magazine entitle “The Greatest, At Rest.” The article tells the story of the meticulous and detailed planning of Muhammad Ali’s funeral by Ali himself along with his wife, Lonnie, that began years before his passing. It details her determined efforts to see his vision carried out despite the difficulties presented by the clash at times between his religious beliefs and his world-wide celebrity. It also details the numerous carefully selected individuals entrusted with the various aspects of Ali’s desired funeral services and their solemn determination to carry out their duties. This is a most extraordinary behind the scenes look. It is a must read for any Ali fan and a must add for any collector of Ali memorabilia.