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.
As discussed in my last post updating my up and down adventures in book marketing, I was looking forward to a couple of fantastic upcoming opportunities to get more exposure for my book “Odes On Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest.” I completed the video testimonial for my self-publisher BookFuel. I thought it came out great for a first time attempt and they expressed that same sentiment. I must say that trying to cover all of the information asked for and do so in a one minute or less time frame without appearing rushed was definitely a challenge. I’m anxious to see how they utilize it. And I’m looking forward to checking out the marketing program they gave me access to as compensation for making the video. Hopefully, it’ll provide some fresh marketing ideas and angles to further boost exposure and book sales. I also finalized reserving representation for ODES ON ALI by the folks at Earthshine Media Group for the upcoming BOOK EXPO and BOOK CON in New York City the first week of June. I can’t wait to see what kind of exposure and interest comes from that big event. And finally, I just finalized securing a book cover ad in the online events program being produced for the upcoming Dublin Writer’s Conference being held in Ireland in June. The purchased package also includes Facebook and twitter exposure as well. As I said in my last marketing post, sales have been a little sluggish so far this year so I’m hoping all of this exposure will help boost reader interest and book sales. Only time will tell. In the meantime, as always, onward and upward as I try to maintain marketing efforts for this book while trying to write the next one.
As the first anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s passing approaches, the tributes to the “Greatest of All-Times” continue to roll on with no end in sight. The volume and variety of these tributes clearly demonstrate the impact and affect Ali’s life had on humanity. And with the current and upcoming contributions planned by filmmakers, the memory of Ali will remain in the spotlight not only now but for years to come. In January, Michael Mann released a new version of his 2001 Ali film, starring Will Smith, on DVD. The new version added footage to existing scenes and cut others to keep the film at comparable length. The added footage mainly strengthened political elements of the film. Mann had previously released a director’s cut several years ago. The original version was also re-released in theaters the weekend following Ali’s passing. A new film covering a less publicized part of Ali’s career was also debuted earlier this year. “The Last Punch” made its debut at the Richmond Film Festival. It was the latest project of film director and Virginia State University administrator Jesse Vaughn. The 28-time Emmy award winner was an Ali fan growing up and jumped at the chance to tell this lesser known story on Ali’s final fight versus Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas. The movie is based on the book of the same title written by James Cornelius who also served as a producer on the film. Cornelius, a self-described “Ali groupie” and hustler, had become part of the Ali entourage during that time. Not wanting to go out on the memory of his loss to Larry Holmes, Ali wanted one more fight. None of the top promoters would touch the fight. They wanted Ali to stay retired. Cornelius, with no previous experience, convinced Ali to let him promote the “Drama in the Bahamas” against Berbick. The story revolves around Cornelius’ promotional efforts while he was also on the run from the FBI for embezzlement charges from his previous job. At least two other major production efforts are in the works to join the treasure trove of existing Ali film tributes. HBO announced a multi-part Ali documentary from director Antoine Fuqua of “Training Day” and “The Magnificent Seven” fame. Fuqua is partnering up with Lebron James on the currently untitled project. Both James and Fuqua have noted the impact Ali had on their lives. The film has already begun production and will premiere on HBO though no air date has been announced as of yet. The Ali story will also be getting the Ken Burns’ treatment as Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and David McMahon are producing and directing a documentary for PBS on Ali. Production on the 2 part, 4 hour project began in early 2016. The anticipated date for premiering the documentary is in 2021. In a statement Sarah Burns stated in part, “We’re eager to get beyond the archetypes and examine who and what influenced his choices, and how he maintained the courage of his convictions when those choices seemed to go against the tide.” The three previously collaborated on the 2013 documentary “The Central Park Five” and the more recent 2 part, 4 hour, documentary on baseball’s Jackie Robinson. This wide variety of film projects give all of us Ali fans plenty to check out now and look forward to over the next several years. I look forward to seeing them all.
I have recently entered in to an agreement with Earthshine Media Group to market my book ODES ON ALI : A Tribute to the Greatest at the BOOKEXPO & BOOKCON 2017 in New York City Thur. June 1 – June 4 at the Javits Center. With over 100,000 international visitors -professionals and fans – attending during the four day event it should generate great exposure that will hopefully increase interest and book sales. In addition, I have been asked by my self-publishing company, BookFuel, to create a short video to talk about my self-publishing experience which would provide additional exposure over their social media sites. The first quarter of 2017 was a little slow due to continued recovery from my accident and a couple of potentially promising marketing opportunities never panning out. But with these new avenues of exposure and my continuing efforts on social media I look forward to getting ODES ON ALI into the hands of more readers. As always, onward and upward.
Never has the phrase “gone but not forgotten” been more fitting than when describing the late, great Muhammad Ali. The outpouring of love and admiration for the GOAT Muhammad Ali since his passing through tributes and exhibitions continues with no end in sight.Many of them are unique and one of a kind just like the champ himself. Such as the one I discussed in my last “More On Ali” post that is being done in June by his hometown minor league baseball team. One that took place more recently was unique in that it paid homage to Ali’s work as an artist, with his boxing and activist exploits in more of a supporting role. GOAT (GREATEST OF ALL TIME): A Tribute to Muhammad Ali was held at the Joshua Liner Gallery in New York from January 5th to February 4 of this year. Unlike most other tributes to Ali, this group exhibition was centered around Ali’s artistic side rather than his better known athletic and activist accomplishments. Ali’s lesser known highly creative side included written and spoken word poetry, stage and screen acting, and drawing. The centerpiece of this group exhibition was a series of rare ink on paper works by Ali in his final years.Exhibited alongside the Ali pieces were works by Andy Warhol and numerous other contemporary artists including Aaron Johnson, Alfred Steiner, Dapper Bruce Lafitte, Hilary Pecis, Kris Kuksi, Libby Black, Mark Mulroney, Michael Kagan, Tony Curanaj, Wayne White, and a wallpaper installation from Brooklyn based Flavor Paper. A series of five ink drawings of boxing rings by Ali were exhibited accompanied by the works from the supporting artists, many of which were produced specifically for this exhibition. Many of the contributing artists created their works for this exhibit based on iconic photos from Ali fights (like an action exchange from the “Thrilla In Manila” and Ali towering over Liston after knocking him out in their second fight) or through adaptation of memorable Ali quotes like “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and “I shook up the world!” Some expressed themselves through paint and some through sculpture. Flavor Paper’s new designed wallpaper featured Andy Warhol’s Muhammad Ali. It was on displayed along with an unpublished print of Ali’s fist from Warhol’s Muhammad Ali portfolio. A great tribute to “The Greatest” by some great artists.
As I watched U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz dominate the 1976 Olympics with his perfect seven for seven gold medal winning performance, I was positive I was watching the greatest male swimmer of all-times. That previously unimaginable achievement was a once in a lifetime perfect alignment of the stars that simply couldn’t be topped. No way, no how. And I’m sure Spitz himself walked away from the sport after that performance feeling that way as well. And when young teen Michael Phelps came away from his first Olympic performance in 2000 with no medals in hand, no one perceived him to be a threat to dethrone Spitz. But just like another Mr. Phelps, he gladly accepted the challenge of this “mission impossible” and in the end not only exceeded but far surpassed Mr. Spitz in single and total Olympic performances. After that initial no medal performance in 2000, Phelps returned to the Olympic pool four years later in ’04 to almost surpass Spitz by winning 6 gold and 2 bronze medals. This followed his 4 gold and 2 silver medals, along with 5 world record times, performance in the 2003 World Aquatic Championships. It was an outstanding effort which put Phelps firmly in the conversation along with Spitz as to the greatest of all-times. He could have easily walked away from the pool as Spitz did after this incredible performance. But this Mr. Phelps was just getting warmed up. Returning again four years later in ’08 at Beijing, Phelps accomplished the goal of the best ever Olympic performance by exceeding Spitz’ 7 gold medal performance by doing the impossible in winning 8 gold medals. In addition, between ’04 and ’08 he added an additional 17 World Aquatic Championship gold medals to his total. This feat made him easily the greatest male swimmer of all-time having surpassed all swimmers in both the single and total Olympic accomplishments. But Mr. Phelps wasn’t done with the record books just yet. In ’12, he returned to the Olympics once again and ran his medal total up to 18 gold and 22 medals total making him the most decorated Olympian of all-time by surpassing Soviet Olympian gymnast Larisa Latynina who previously held the record with 18 total Olympic medals. Many believed that surely at that point, with all the records in hand, Mr. Phelps would ride off into the sunset. But not so fast. Mr. Phelps wasn’t quite through yet. He decided to return one more time for his fifth consecutive Olympics in 2016 in Rio. And he did not disappoint. In winning 5 more gold medals and 1 silver, Mr. Phelps ran his incredible record total to 28 medals, 23 gold, before announcing his retirement from the pool at age 31. For all the above and more, Michael Phelps is without a doubt the greatest, and most decorated, male swimmer of all-times. He is also the most decorated, and arguably the greatest, Olympic performer of all-time. Well done Mr. Phelps!