Sports and passion go hand in hand. No sport, to me, ignites that passion quite like combat sports. Boxing, of course, is the king of those.
Sit back, grab a beer, it is fight night. I cannot imagine there has been, or ever will be, any greater moment in all of sports history when The Greatest, The People's Champion, The Louisville Lip, the one, the only, Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Flame for the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA.
The man is a legend.
He knew how to fuel the fire of the competitive spirit better than anyone did. Some would say he did it too well. Joe Frazier, arguably Ali's greatest opponent, once said:
"Truth is, I'd like to rumble with that sucker again -- beat him up piece by piece and mail him back to Jesus. ... Now people ask me if I feel bad for him, now that things aren't going so well for him. Nope. I don't. Fact is, I don't give a damn. They want me to love him, but I'll open up the graveyard and bury his ass when the Lord chooses to take him."
Now that may seem crass, but that is just the kind of thing that gets me all teary eyed when I think about how much drive and belief these athletes have in themselves. Some people might associate Ali with good times spent with friends or family sitting around the television screen. I am not old enough to reminisce in such a manner. I am, however, a lifelong fan of any man who can dance around his opponents and make beating them to a pulp look that pretty.
He made the Olympics look pretty too. His unrelenting energy and soul carried through that torch and into that flame. That energy coursed right into the Games that year. It was palpable. The United States took home 44 gold medals.
I know I am not the only one with such fond memories of this event, but its reverie can be shared in many ways. The amount of memories, both good and bad, that the Olympics and sports create are precisely what make them so beloved.
The 1996 Olympic Games might be remembered for other things, but they should not be. They should always be remembered as The Greatest, because they had "The Greatest" there to ignite the Olympic spirit in us all.
*Tim has been a fan of the Olympic Games since he was a child, but he will never forget the 1996 Opening Ceremony.