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!
While “The Greatest” may be gone, he has most definitely not been forgotten. The tributes to Muhammad Ali since his passing continue across the globe but especially in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Bats, the city’s minor league baseball team recently announced a tribute planned for June. On June 3, the one year anniversary of Ali’s death, the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-a affiliate will on honor Ali by hosting Muhammad Ali Appreciation Night at Louisville Slugger Field. The Bats’ players will wear specially designed Ali-themed jerseys. The stunning jerseys have an Ali head-shot across the entire front with ALI written on one sleeve and The Greatest written on the other. A butterfly image with ALI printed in the center is on the back of the jersey above the player’s number. The June 3rd special event will be the first of six weekends of community events focusing on spreading Muhammad Ali’s six core principals (Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Respect, Giving, and Spirituality) according to Louisville Bats Senior Vice President Greg Galiette. Following the June 3rd game, the Ali tribute jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Muhammad Ali Center. The first two thousand fans in attendance will receive a free Bats logo cap commemorating Muhammad Ali. The jerseys are a thing of beauty truly befitting of the self-proclaimed “greatest, prettiest heavyweight champ of all-times.”
To this point I have not chosen any active or even recently retired athletes in my all-times sports greats selections. And I firmly believe the facts and stats I provided for each selection have fortified those opinions. But that ends with this post as I believe that the still active Serena Williams has proven herself to be the greatest all-time female tennis player. Some out there will still argue that it’s Margaret Court when looking at overall numbers before and after the open era. Others will claim Stefi Graf should still be recognized as the best from the modern era due to her higher numbers in some categories. And I’m sure there are a few who still say it’s Martina. But I believe at this point Serena Williams has justified her place as the best. And before she’s through, she, and her numbers, should put the argument to rest. After all, she’s done a pretty good job of it so far. Still on top at age 35, she has earned over $84,000,000.00 in career prize money. She is 5-2 in WTA singles finals, 23-6 in Grand Slam singles finals, and 1-0 in Olympics singles finals.She has been number 1 in the rankings 7 times and is the co-record holder, along with Graf, for maintaining number 1 ranking for 186 consecutive weeks. She’s 3rd overall in total weeks at number 1 at 316. She is 5-2 in WTA tour title finals. As impressive as her singles numbers are, when it comes to doubles finals she and her sister Venus are near perfect at 23-1. They are 14-0 in Grand Slam doubles finals, 3-0 in Olympic doubles finals, and 4-1 in WTA tour championships finals. And while her sister has helped to make her part of an unbeatable doubles team, Venus has also subtracted from her Grand Slam singles totals. She also has won 2 Grand slam mixed doubles championships. Serena is currently the top player in the game. Barring any unforeseen injury or health issues, she should maintain her stay at the top for now and continue adding titles to her record. For all the above and more, Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all-times.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked by potential readers is, why should I buy your book as opposed to any of the numerous others written on Ali? The answer to that I tell them is easy. As the book description on the back cover reads: Ali was the “Poet Laureate of Pugilism.” It is in that spirit that author David A. Bates has created “ODES ON ALI: A Tribute To The Greatest” covering Ali’s professional boxing career from his pro debut to the fight in which he captured the heavyweight title for the third and final time. Each fight is recalled in a lyrically rhyming poetry style reminiscent of Ali’s own rhyming recitations. It is a concise biographical portrayal that is an informatively accurate, highly entertaining read. I tell them that I believe that description is what sets it apart from all the other books on Ali. I believe the informative value is equal to any other biographical book on Ali. And the artistic value separates it from the others. If still not convinced, I simply refer them to the various reviews received. Most acknowledge that unique artistic value with the comments written by the various reviewers such as:
“Throughout the pages of this magnificently written book, it is visible that the author is truly fond and devoted to the legendary Muhammad Ali. a truly beautiful way of showing it with love speaking through every page.”
“I was delightfully surprised to find the entire book written in the form of a poem. I absolutely loved it! It was beautiful, eloquent and delightful to read. It captured Ali’s thoughts and feelings during major fighting events and personal trials throughout his life and career. A definite must read!”
If those to comments from reviewers don’t tell a reader why they should choose my book over the numerous other Ali books out there then I don’t know that anything more from me would.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts how the United States, unlike other countries around the world, has not honored Muhammad Ali with placing his picture on a postage stamp. Ali once stated the only way he could ever be licked was if the they put him on a stamp. Other famous athletes, like boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson, have been given this honor. Muhammad Ali, however, has not. And while the U. S. Congress has thus far failed to right this wrong, they have honored The Greatest by naming a federal law for him. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, known as the Ali Act, was introduced in 1999 by Congressman Michael Oxley of Ohio but was never brought to a vote. In the year 2000 it was sponsored in the Senate by Senator John McCain of Arizona and enacted on May 26, 2000 by the 106th Congress. The Act amends the 1996 Professional Boxing Act by expanding on legislation against exploitation, conflicts of interest, and enforcement issues. Due but not limited to no league, association, or any form of established organization like other professional sports, the Act was amended to ensure the safety and protection of professional boxers against predatory managers and promoters, one-sided contracts, and other abuses. An amendment to the Act was introduced on May 19, 2016 by Congressman Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. The bill aims to expand federal coverage to all contact sports athletes including those in mixed martial arts. Resistance to expanding the Ali Act to include mixed martial arts has come from UFC president Dana White. Given Mr. White’s campaign support for, and friendship with, new U. S. President Donald Trump, it will be interesting to see if President Trump will sign the amended law if it does indeed pass Congress. In the meantime Congress, how about giving us an Ali postage stamp? After retirement, Ali maintained homes in Michigan, Arizona, and Kentucky, so any one of the representatives in Congress from those three states should step up and get this done. It is long overdue.
Due to technical difficulties I’ve been unable to post new entries on this blog for the last several weeks. Unfortunately, the repair efforts resulted in the loss of my January 2017 posts. Everything appears to be back on track now. Onward and upward. New posts soon!
It’s been said that Ali never met a camera he didn’t like. And as the greatest, prettiest, heavyweight champion of all-time, why should he? So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of his close friends and confidants was professional photographer Howard L. Bingham. Mr. Bingham recently passed away at age 77. Bingham first met the then Cassius Clay in 1962 when he was assigned by the L.A. Sentinel, the newspaper he worked as a photographer for, to cover a press conference announcing an upcoming fight for the heavyweight challenger. After the press conference ended, he invited Clay and his brother to take a ride with him. They hit it off instantly, and from there Bingham began photographing Ali regularly about a 100 days a year. His work was noted for capturing Ali in unguarded moments that reflected the real Ali. Bingham attended L. A.’s Compton Community College, but despite failing a photography class he managed to get the photographer’s job at the Sentinel. However, he was fired after eighteen months due to spending more time on personal projects instead of the paper’s. So, he turned to photographing Ali and doing freelance work. Bingham was the first black man in the Hollywood Cinematographers Union for working on the first Bill Cosby sitcom “The Bill Cosby Show” in 1969. In 1998, SI profiled Bingham in an issue with the cover photo of him with Ali that was captioned, “Who’s that guy with Howard Bingham?” Bingham had said he believed he was the only one in Ali’s inner circle who could always be completely honest with the champ at all times since he took no money from Ali. Staying with the theme of Ali and his fondness for the camera as well as the camera’s love for Ali, his appeal as an artistic subject is also being displayed in a pair of exhibitions at the New York Historical Society. The flamboyant watercolors and sketches of renowned sports artist LeRoy Neiman and the photos of George Kalinsky, the official photographer of Madison Square Garden are on display in “Muhammad Ali, LeRoy Neiman,and the Art of Boxing” and “I Am King of the World: Photographs of Muhammad Ali by George Kalinsky.” Though the two artist were close friend for abut fifty years, the contrast of their works was equal to the contrast of their very different personalities. Kalinsky was as low-key and unassumingly simple as his black and white work while Neiman was a loud, flamboyant, self-made celebrity ever bit as explosive as the wild colors in his art. Yet, both of their careers revolved to an extent around their fascinations with Ali and boxing. Neiman met Ali prior to his fight with Billy Daniels in 1962, while Kalinsky first photographed the young champion in 1965.
“ODES ON ALI: A Tribute to the Greatest” has recently received two more five star reviews from readers at Booktips!
Allene Jackson wrote: “I recommend this book to everyone especially poetry lovers and Ali admirers. I was surprised by how delightful the book read.”
Nayaab Khan wrote: “Throughout the pages of this magnificently written book, it is visible that the author is truly fond and devoted to the legendary Muhammad Ali.”
You can read both reviews in their entirety on amazon.
On Saturday, November 19th, Readers’ Favorite held their 2016 International Book Awards ceremony in recognition of excellence in writing. I was proud and honored to take the stage along with my fellow award-winning authors that night. Although, due to my ongoing recovery after surgery, I was unable to take part in any of the other events held prior to the awards ceremony. I felt fortunate to at least be able to take part in the Saturday night ceremony. I met some great people and talented writers that night. I was also glad to put faces to some of the people from Readers’ Favorite who I had previously only corresponded with online or over the phone. And I was able to exchange cards with several of my fellow writers. Although I had to keep the night short due my early rise the next morning for my day at the Miami Book Fair, I did get to share a cold beer and some good conversation with a couple of my fellow attendees. As I said before, it was a great event. I’m so glad I was able to attend.
The Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards, in recognition of excellence in writing, is held each year in conjunction with the Miami Book Fair. During the three day Street Fair held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the Miami Book Fair, Readers’ Favorite maintains a booth at the Street Fair which features the award-winning books from that year’s book awards. Each award winner is asked to donate three copies of their book for Readers’ Favorite to sell with the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. I was more than happy to donate the three copies of my award-winning book “ODES ON ALI: A Tribute to the Greatest” for such a worthy cause. Muhammad Ali loved kids and was a most charitable and giving individual. So, I felt it most appropriate to include a book about him in a charitable effort benefiting children’s health. Being that I only had a booth on Sunday, after setting up and settling in, I walked over to the Readers’ Favorite booth to see how my book was being received. When told that the last of the three copies provided had just been sold, I happily told the gentleman manning the booth that I would send down a couple more copies for the cause. He said that would be fantastic and thanked me for my generosity. Upon return to my booth, I asked my assistant to take a couple more copies down which she did. By the time I left that evening the Readers’ Favorite folks were already gone, so I’m not sure if the other two copies sold or not. I surely hope so, for as I stated previously, St. Jude is a truly worthy cause and I was proud to provide a small portion to add to what Readers’ Favorite donates to them each year.