As those few of you out there know, one of my great interests is the so-called “what-if” scenario (often referred to as “whiffs”). What if the US had lost the battle at Midway, leaving the West Coast open to Japanese invasion? What if Moscow had fallen in the late fall of 1941, leaving Germany in command of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals? What if the Soviet Union hadn’t fallen, or fallen earlier or later? So many great moments in time breed so many alternate possibilities.
But I came up with an interesting one, based on a conversation with my wife. What if Muhammad Ali had not been struck with Parkinson’s? As I watch the coverage of the memorial service for The Greatest, I think back to those dark days in September, 2001. What if Ali had been active and mobile on the 12th? What if the speech we all remember isn’t George W. Bush on “The Pile” vowing vengeance, but Ali shaming the extremists and counseling the love of all religions? What impact could he have on the ongoing Israel/Palestinian conflict? Where would Daesh/IS be, if the loudest sound wasn’t the gunshots echoing from Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino, but Ali’s words of peace and togetherness?
And one side thought. As some wonder how long we will remember Ali’s greatness, I cannot help but remember a line from one of my most favourite movies, “The Wrath of Khan”. Dr. McCoy looks at James Kirk, and says about the recently-departed Mr. Spock, “He’s not really dead. As long as we remember him.” On that basis, Ali will truly remain “The Greatest” for all time.