Of all the things said about Muhammad Ali after his passing last week, my favourite were the thoughts of radio commentator Bomani Jones.
Bomani said the thing that stood out to him about Ali was his refusal to back down.
He was knocked down in the 4th round of his fight against Henry Cooper but recovered to win. Ken Norton broke his jaw but he fought all 15 rounds. Joe Frazier knocked him down in the 11th and 15th rounds but he kept fighting. He was getting pummelled by George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, so much so that after the fight he said, “This must be what dying feels like.”
There was no back down in him.
Ali refused to join the US Army and go to Vietnam. He didn’t agree with the war and questioned why he kill people who had nothing to do with him. It was the racist situation in America that was more important to him. Even though it was his right to refuse to go to war, he was told he would lose his heavyweight title and the income that went with it. He would always be imprisoned for refusing to join the Army.
Ali didn’t back down from his beliefs.
I’m proud of the NZ Warriors rugby league team. They have been through some challenges recently. This recent Rugby League Week cover portrays them as defeated and weak.
Images are powerful. But I know the players don’t see things that way.
Recently the Warriors went to New Plymouth to play. There was a large group in the stands from Isaac Luke’s home town of Hawera. The Warriors lost the game but afterwards Isaac’s supporters honoured his achievements with an emotional haka.
There’s more to life than rugby league. The players are people, people like us who have goals and dreams. They have successes and failures like we all do. But the most important thing about them is not their ability to pass a ball, or tackle. The most important thing about them is who they are as a person.
That haka done by Isaac’s supporters for him even though the team lost, is really inspiring. No matter how many times we take hits, there’s no back down.
I’m encouraging my students and myself to have that attitude too.
Watch the haka for Isaac here:
Listen to Bomani’s thoughts here:
No Back Down!