I know the Stuff Lying Around the Office feature has been heavy on newspaper stuff lately, but I just cleaned out the newspaper office a while back, and that's the stuff at the top of the stack.
And this is a good one for several reasons.
First, I don't have the year of the above publication. It wasn't listed on the credits, and it was a stand-alone section to commemorate Muhammad Ali, published by The Courier-Journal.
There's no advertising, but it is notable for its excellence.
The cover is a wonderful illustration by Courier-Journal artist Herman Weiderwohl, and clearly so much care was taken with what went into its pages that, really, putting out the best book possible was all anyone cared about.
It runs only 16 pages, but each story and photo carries its weight. It features writing from only three men. Courier-Journal sports editor Billy Reed. Dave Kindred, who had been a C-J sports editor but had left for The Washington Post by that time, and Howard Cosell, who spoke about Ali for transcription by the paper.
I wish I could share the whole thing with you, but I can't. I can give you some excerpts.
By Dave Kindred: "Perhaps Muhammad Ali's greatest fights came in his dancing youth. He was a living flame then, as near to animal perfection as an athlete can be. Sugar Ray Robinson is the standard by which fighters are judged in grace and speed; photographic studies showed Ali's jab a third faster than the Sugar man's, and no one ever moved inside a ring the way Ali did in the 1960s. He was a bird uncaged, playing on the wind."
By Howard Cosell: "The first point I would want to make about Muhammad Ali is that he has been, almost from the beginning, transcendental to sport. He is in fact a figure of legal history, of constitutional law history, and he is, in point of fact, a world figure and he has been from the very day that he rejected military induction.
"As such he will always have a special place in the American history books. It's a mark of the man, almost incredibly, that in the age of Henry Kissinger he was more traveled and better known even than the world's greatest statesman at that time."
And finally, just a bit longer excerpt just six or seven paragraphs that began a much longer piece, and really just to show that the greatest journalism and writing is proximity. Note Kindred's detailed account here, and how he moves back and forth from observation to emotion.
By Dave Kindred
We forgive Muhammad Ali his excesses because we see in him someone we would like to be. In all of us a child lives. The child laughs and cries. He asks for the sweets of the world as if they were his alone, and he begs in a hundred ways, a thousand ways, for the attention that is a guarantee of love. We grow old with this child in us and we pretend the child is gone, for we are told to put aside childish things.
Muhammad Ali is the child in all of us, and if he is foolish or cruel, if he is arrogant, if he is outrageously in love with his reflection, we forgive him because we no more can condemn him than condemn a rainbow for dissolving in the dusk.
And the child is good.
The room was quiet. Ali looked into the coffin where a policeman lay. Behind the heavyweight champion of the world, empty wooden chairs with curved-top backs stood on a gray linoleum floor.The room's only lights were bare bulbs at the end of the coffin. Ali's face was made sinister, shadows moving each time he tilted his head to see another part of the dead man. Funeral homes in Philadelphia ghettoes are repositories for the friendless, and Ali, his Rolls-Royce parked on the street, had come to see the man.
"He got shot during my fight," Ali said. Men had argued in a Philadelphia arena. They had seen Ali fight on closed-circuit television. The policeman was off duty and he tried to stop the argument and someone shot him. Ali read about it in the newspapers. In front of the coffin, Ali reached out and touched the dead man's hands.
"Cold," Ali said.
He would go, later, to the policeman's wife, Ali said, and talk to her and say he was sorry. He would see if there was anything she needed and he would try to help.
The child is good, and he is black, and the policeman was black, and if Ali is remembered for anything, he wants it to be this, "I was a fighter who tried to help my people."