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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Brown’

2016 Principle Gallery Wall shot aHad a very nice visit in Alexandria.  On Friday the weather always seemed on the verge of a huge thunderstorm, which had me a little apprehensive– even more than I normally be on the day of a show– about prospects for the opening reception of this year’s show, Part of the Pattern,  at the Principle Gallery on that evening.  However the storm never really hit with much force and the reception turned out well.

It was a really nice evening with a great crowd that kept me completely engaged throughout.  It was good catching up with folks who have been coming to the shows for many years now as well as greeting many new faces.  I can’t say “Thank You” enough to those who were able to come out on Friday and to our friends at the Principle Gallery–Michele, Clint, Pam, Haley, Pierre and Megan— who made it all possible. Oh, and special thanks to my canine friends at the gallery, Asher and Chase.

Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell

Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell

Word came out during our time there that Muhammad Ali had passed away.  Ali was a huge hero of mine when I was a child, part of what I consider the Holy Quartet of Heroes– Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Bob Gibson– who had much in common.  They were all dominant legends in their respective sports, the greatest winners of their times.

They were all strong and smart black men who were not afraid to go against the grain, to take a stand outside the world world of sports and say things that were not always popular nor politically correct.  They seemed to understand that that their sports were secondary to the state of the world.  They all transcended their sports and became cultural heroes and symbols, something more than mere performers on the athletic stage.

Ali was certainly a standout in that last category.  He was arguably the most widely recognized person on earth, a sports figure whose image was widely known throughout the world  decades after his time as an athlete had ended.  I remember reading, I think it was in Wilfrid Sheed‘s biography of Ali, about Ali’s picture hanging in mud huts in Africa.

He was so  much more than a boxer.   I have a hard time watching boxing today but I watched a lot of it when I was a kid and it was mainly because of Ali.  It was no less brutal a sport then but Ali made it seem like there was an air of poetry and gracefulness in it.  In my mind, I can still see his seemingly effortless movements around the ring, dancing lightly on the toes of his white shoes around plodding opponents.  It was a thing of beauty to see this big man move like he was being carried by the breeze as the other man would dive at him, often flailing away at a target that was there then gone in a flash.

He was the rarest of birds.  Style and substance.

Sorry to see him go.

Well, this song doesn’t have a lot to say about Ali but it is about a boxer and it is a beautiful song.  Below is a version of the great Simon and Garfunkel song as perfomed by Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin and dobro-master Jerry Douglas.

Thanks for stopping in today and have a great Sunday.

PS:  TODAY IS THE LAST FULL DAY — this event ends MONDAY, June 6, promptly at 12 noon–to take part in the event to raise funds for the Soarway Foundation‘s efforts in Nepal.   Your donation, which will help immensely, also gets you a chance at winning a painting of mine valued at $5000 plus a signed poster.  What more can you ask?  You get the pleasure from helping others, a tax deduction and a chance to win something fairly valuable.

 

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POD007850025The NBA recently announced that the MVP award of the NBA final will be named the Bill Russell Award.  I’m sure there are a lot of younger people out there who don’t even know who Bill Russell is or what he meant to basketball and sports in general.

Bill Russell was and is the greatest winner in basketball history.  Perhaps, in all sports history.

He led his University of San Francisco team to consecutive NCAA championships.

He captained the gold medal winning USA Olympic team in 1956.

He was the foundation of the Boston Celtics dynasty.  11 NBA championships.  Eleven in thirteen years.  Think about that.

Along with Bob Gibson, Bill Russell was my childhood idol.  When playing sock basketball with a bent wire hanger for a rim, I was always Bill Russell.  Trying to block everything.  Grabbing every rebound.  He won by doing the basics, not by scoring but by smothering the opponents with hsi defense and rebounding.

I remember sitting with my dada at the kitchen table,  listening to the radio, a green plastic box with a stick in the back that held the batteries in place.  The Celtics’ legendary announcer Johnny Most‘s voice cutting through the static, crackles and pops:

Russell blocks the shot!

What a competitor.  I remember reading James Toback‘s 1971 biography of Jim Brown where he recounted playing golf with Brown, Bill Russell and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.  He was amazed as Brown and Russell went head to head, both legendary competitors.  Shot after shot, they matched one another, neither giving an inch.  It was a pure demonstration of the spirit of what may be the two most dominant players in sports history.  Russell’s competitive intensity was always evident on the court in his glares and the way he stalked the lane.  The fact that he regularly dominated Wilt Chamberlain, who was perhaps the most dominant offensive talent in NBA history, in their legendary head to head battles is further proof of this will to win.

But he was so much more.  He was an intellect, smart and witty.  He could and would expound on subjects outside of the basketball courtand do so with the same strength and grace he displayed on the court.  I loved listening to him as a commentator  after his career ended.  He was insightful and downright funny at times.  His gap-toothed grin and laugh were pure joy.  He was bigger  than sport.  

It’s a pity it took so long for the NBA to honor this man but at least they finally got it right.  He should be on the trophy…

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