Throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game has become an American tradition. So much so that when there are games of high importance, you are likely to find a sitting president, dignitary, uber celebrity or icon of the game having the honor bestowed upon them. So when I heard that one of the most famous men of my life time, Muhammad Ali was going to throw out the first pitch to open the new Florida Marlins stadium on Wednesday, I had to watch.
It was just this past November when we lost Smokin’ Joe Frasier. If you are old enough to remember the Ali vs. Frasier days, you’ll recall it as perhaps the greatest of rivalries in all of sport. If you aren’t old enough to remember, just think Red Sox / Yankees, but instead of playing baseball, the two teams beat the crap out of each other. And just how the Red Sox and Yankees fans are passionate about their teams, so too were the fans of the two fighters. When I was a kid, you were either a Frasier guy or an Ali guy, there was no in between and there was no one I know who was indifferent. It was almost as if you had to choose one or another as a matter of law.
What I saw on Wednesday night should never have happened. Here was a man once more famous around the world than any person you can think of in a time when there was no internet, twitter, satellite or even cable TV, that has had Parkinson’s disease take from him everything he was. Born Cassius Clay turned Muhammad Ali, the man is now not even recognizable as the boisterous cartoon-like character he once was. Ali didn’t throw out the first pitch, he delivered the ball to the mound on a golf cart in what was perhaps the most pathetic and sad ending to an opening ceremony to a sporting event I have ever seen. I used to think that watching Ted Williams at the 1999 MLB All-Star Game was sad, but this makes that look as exciting as a college orgy.
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Ali is only 70 years old but it seems like he’s 90. Who knows if he even knows where he is or what’s going on. It’s a damn shame that they continually parade him out on things like this and the public has to see him this way. To be honest, and I mean no disrespect, but it’s more like a freak show than anything else. When people cheer as he gets driven by it’s because it’s so awkward that it’s the only humane thing to do, not because they are applauding him for who he was / is.
MLB and the Florida Marlins ruined my opening day. After watching Ali I felt so sad that I couldn’t even enjoy the game. Memo to whoever is planning on using Ali next as their circus draw… Get a bearded lady, dancing midget giraffe or some other willing participant for people to gawk at. Please don’t exploit Muhammad Ali anymore, don’t do it to him, don’t do it to us…