Before I learned I was pale and skinny and weak and strange, before the other boys taught me my place on the playground, I believed I could be dark and strong and funny and fast. I believed I could be like Ali. I could sing sweet and sting sour and make 'em all laugh as I beat 'em down. I was five years old and every time Ali clowned Cosell, that pinched little man in a suit, every time he got in front of a crowd and told them who he was and then proceeded to prove it, I believed I could be what I wanted to be.
He was mine, too. I loved his big mouth. I loved the way he moved, faster than I could see. I loved that he made my parents angry when he talked about the world, even though I didn't understand what he meant most of the time. I loved that he fought. I, afraid of everything, loved that he feared nothing. He would get punched and stand up, fall down and stand up, get booed and stand up. They'd take his title and he'd stand up and take it back. Over and over. He believed he was a man and demanded others treat him as such. I wanted to be a man like that. Funny, fast, strong, unbowed, unafraid.
I still do.