My Personal Ratings System For Teachers, Coaches, & Leaders

Check out this little league coach showing this youngster how to grip a bat; now that’s teaching! Photo courtesy of


As many of you would probably know if you’ve been reading this blog or any of the stuff I’ve written on sites like Hub Pages, I worked with young people in some capacity – a physical education teacher, a sports coach (mostly baseball & softball), a tutor, and an after school leader – for roughly 25 years.

After those days were over and I had some time to reflect on it all, having noticed the styles of the various teachers and coaches that I worked with, worked for, and who taught and coached me during my formative years in school,

I developed a ratings system pertaining to the personality a teacher/coach; his or her philosophy and approach to working with and (particularly) interacting with children and young folks and how effective such would ultimately have.

My system is based on a 1-10 scale:

ONE –  a teacher/coach whose approach is that of a buddy or a best friend, which in my experience describes many youth sports coaches who coach beginners and kids who are single-digit age.

Teachers and coaches like this are often quite popular, and their charges usually have a fun experience, which is important.


The problem with leaders like this is that the children who are learning whatever they are learning, usually end up not learning anything as the mindset of coaches like this is,


“We’re just here to have fun, it doesn’t really matter (if you get any better at whatever’s being taught)”


In essence, coaches like this run their team like a glorified recess.

Which is not good.


TEN – the opposite of a “ONE” coach.

Basically a Marine Corps drill sergeant in boot camp-type of leader.

These are the coaches/teachers who yell/scream at their students/athletes, belittling them, oftentimes calling them names, saying that they suck, giving harsh punishments, even throwing things at them.

A good illustration of this: My first high school marching band director (I had two during those days).

As a teacher, he fit all the above descriptions, his most often tirade being – at the top of his lungs of course, while looking like he was about to turn into the Incredible Hulk…


“You stink! You can’t march!! You can’t play!!! YOU STINK!!! I HATE YOU!!! Now go on and give me some push-ups!!! GO ON!!!!”


I also vividly recall him throwing his baton at a trumpet player during a rehearsal.

Essentially, teachers and coaches like him aren’t just intimidating, they are just plain mean – at least with their charges during practice or rehearsal.



I like the way the coach – one guess who it is by this pic – is interacting with his team here. Photo courtesy of


And then there’s a…

FIVE – The rating that all leaders need to strive for.

These are the people who can get on you if needed, but in a good way so as to not make their students or players feel demeaned or humiliated.

More importantly, these are the leaders that show that they care about you not only in whatever they’re coaching or teaching,

But also as a human being.

For these coaches, it’s about positive reinforcement, self-esteem, and confidence building without being overly friendly or not holding their charges accountable.

In my experience and observation, there are only two people who are perfect fives in my book:

1. John Wooden, the former UCLA basketball coach widely regarded as the greatest coach in the history of sports not only due to his winning ten national championships in a twelve-year span – including seven in a row – but also due to his various quotes like “Be quick, but don’t hurry” and “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”  and his renowned “Pyramid of Success”, that is a basic guide on how to succeed in life.


2. Valorie Kondos Field, the dynamic coach of UCLA’s women’s gymnastics team who has won national championships, worked with All-Americans, members of the U.S. National Team (and other countries),  Olympians and Olympic gold medalists, and who like Wooden has been extremely effective in teaching her young ladies how to get along in life, which has shown in the success of all her gymnasts once their Bruin days were done.


As For Me and My Rating As A Coach And A Teacher…

I was more or less all over the place.

There were times where I was about an eight, particularly during my first few years working with kids as while I never, ever hit anyone, I was a bit of a yeller at times and a my-way-or-else type of leader, something saying things to certain kids that I regret, that I would apologize for if I ever encountered such kids today.

There were also times when I was about a three, in that I would interact with my students and athletes like I was trying to be their buddy, which ruined the sense of authority that I was trying to establish.

I’d never say that I was a perfect five, but I was always striving for it, and you know what?

If I ever got a chance to coach or teach again, I’m confident that I would be as close to a five – perhaps a four or a six – than I ever was.

I hope this rating system makes sense to those of you who teach or coach or have aspirations to do so.

It’s certainly something that will be kept in my mind if the opportunity to work with young people ever arises again for me, my attitude being…



Another illustration of good instruction from a coach. Photo courtesy of





TEN YEARS AGO TODAY: Commemorating The Day I Changed My Life And Decided To Pursue Writing

Photo courtesy of



I remember it well;

On this day in 2008, I was in pretty bad shape emotionally.

In fact, I was in pretty bad shape for the past few years, as I was pathetically trying to hold onto my life working with young people in education and sports.

For the previous five years, I was miserably failing at being gainfully employed, either quitting or being fired from every one of the six jobs that I had, ranging from being a tutor in East Los Angeles to being on the coaching staff for a high school softball team, to being a playground aide – a job where I lasted only a few weeks – to my last gig as an after school teacher.

Looking back, it was evident that I was depressed on a fairly pronounced scale, even threatening suicide at one of those jobs when my supervisor was, at least in my warped mind,  picking on me for something.

It all came to a head during that last after school job when my supervisor – a young lady who was half my age – lectured me due to something I did.

Which I deserved in retrospect, but my mind was so messed up over having to kowtow to someone who could have been one of my students or athletes that I felt humiliated, among other negative things.

I fell into SUCH a depression that I stayed home for the next three days, rarely getting out of bed.

Which brings me to that fateful day – this day – exactly a decade ago.

I had finally realized once and for all that the effects of my being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder – having Asperger’s Syndrome to be precise – was never going to be conducive to me working with other people on a daily basis.

Not only that, I had realized that I absolutely was sick and tired of working for and answering to someone else.

I hated having to impress and please people who I honestly felt saw me as an inferior, not an equal human being in my mind.

I realized that I desperately needed my freedom, my independence from being at the mercy of someone else; for that someone else to determine whether you were going to be able to eat, buy clothes, and pay the rent through their employment of you.



Considering all the work I’ve done these past ten years, I suppose it’s safe for me to say this. Photo courtesy of


Which was causing a stress that was quite unhealthy.

And most of all, after remembering how people had told me over the years that they liked my writing and my essays in schools and such, I realized that my talents were in that field and that I needed to pursue that wholeheartedly.

Or forever wish I had.

In short, being an employee was virtually – and perhaps literally, being that I had threatened suicide more than once during my time in the workforce  –  killing me.

I began that February 6th by meeting the softball coach I was under the previous spring at a Carl’s Jr., telling him of my plans.

Then I journeyed to the school where I was working at to take my stand against those oppressors, I mean employers.

To formally quit not only my job, but the “Kid Business” in general, ending my life in working for young people.

To in layman’s terms, tell the overseers, I mean supervisors, at that after-school job to “Kiss my ass” (not literally of course; I had a little more class than that).

And to begin my life as a writer, which I did a few days later when I found a site called and began writing different articles about my experiences with having Asperger’s and other things, which I got paid in royalties for.

Which led me to joining another writing site that paid royalties,

Which, being a sports person who liked to give opinions about such, led me to writing for Bleacher Report and Fansided, helping to start, a sports blog covering my alma mater UCLA, on that network.

Which eventually led me to starting two blogs of my own:, on this same WordPress network,

And this blog.

Which I will have had for three (for SoCal Sports Annals) and four years this July (for this blog) respectively.

Along with working on my book describing  my struggles with being on the autism spectrum in a non-autistic world, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I am on the verge of finishing as I have done a fourth draft and am going to do some final editing on one chapter in particular.




I thought it would be nice to include a picture of Charlie Brown’s dog doing his writing here, as I grew up on “Peanuts” and consider it the greatest comic strip of all time. Image courtesy of



In Case You Were Wondering:

No, I have NOT gotten rich from this now decade-long career – FAR from it.

But that’s perfectly OK as my mental well-being has improved in the past ten years since that day I walked away from the “Kid Business”

I don’t pretend that I have arrived as a writer; I’m definitely haven’t had any success on any best seller lists whatsoever.

But one thing is for sure…

By having these two blogs and this soon-to-be published book (by no later than the end of this year), I feel that I’m being more a contributor to society.

For lack of a better term, I feel that I’m more in my niche.

And that I will have left something worthwhile to be remembered by when my time in this world is over – if people care to remember me at all.

Which I think is a big part of living your life.


All Right, Here’s My Main Point:

It all began ten years ago today.

And it wouldn’t be right to not mark the occasion in these Hartland Chronicles of  mine.

Of course it’s my hope and prayer that my life in writing will continue to be fulfilling.

And if it becomes lucrative, great!

But to be honest, making a lot of money was not on my mind when I decided to do this.

It was to become happy in my life’s work – or at least happier.

Which I of course thank God for as I’m convinced He was leading me to this.

It’s been a pretty good ten years doing this writing thing.

I only pray that the next ten years are as good if not better.

Perhaps I’ll work on a young adult novel when “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is done and published; I have a few ideas swimming in my head.

I know I’m going to grow and evolve SoCal Sports Annals, as that’s my business for all intents and purposes.

I also know that I’m not where I want and need to be as a writer, and probably won’t be for a while.

But at least I’m not where I used to be those past few years working for someone else, especially mentally.

And that’s something that I certainly thank the Good Lord for.


Photo courtesy of


My Thoughts Regarding Athletes Protesting Before Games

Miami Dolphins kneeling before a game. Photo courtesy of




It’s been another polarizing issue in a series of polarizing issues in this country as of late.

And it would be ignorant of me to not offer my views of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes, from the NFL and elsewhere, kneeling to protest police brutality and other racial issues while the national anthem is playing.


So here’s how I feel about it all…

I have family who fought and died for that starred and striped flag.

My great-grandfather fought in World War I

My uncle was killed in the Korean War; it’s been 67 years and his remains are still somewhere in North Korea instead of the Los Angeles National Cemetery where it belongs.

My father fought in the Vietnam War.

Which is why I personally choose to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner”, my attitude being “Might as well.”



I am also an African-American male who has encountered racism, such as being profiled several times by the Santa Monica, CA police during the 1990s, including getting handcuffed in fromt of my house because I “fit the description” of a stalker.

I have been denied employment because of my being black, like when after a great phone interview for a job, I was told that it was being offered to someone else because “He asked first” upon laying eyes on me.

I was called the “N-word” on numerous occasions during my early childhood years by quite a few white kids in the then-rural community of Woodcrest outside of Riverside, CA, and hearing that word a few times in Santa Monica.

I have experienced various slights and microagressions that, looking back, I recognize that’s what I went through during my teenage and young adult years.

Of course it’s impossible to forget the many instances of African-American men being brutalized and murdered in the hands of the local authorities; incidents like the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of those four Euro-Caucasian cops who did that dirty work – which triggered then L.A. Rebellion/Riots 25 years ago – and the murders of guys like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray come to mind.


Image #: 13530908 American athletes Tommie Smith (middle, gold medal) and John Carlos (right, bronze medal) at the Award Ceremony for the 200m race at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, October 16, 1968. The Olympics Black Power salute was a notable black power protest and one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. DPA/LANDOV Photo courtesy of


So what does this have to do with NFL players kneeling before games – I know you’re asking that right about now…

In a nutshell, I support the athletes.

I know that many folks – mostly of the white and conservative persuasion, curiously enough – are foaming at the mouth over the kneeling, the arm-linking and the fist-raising, saying that while they have a right to protest, to do so on the job should be a crime punishable by virtual condemnation to hell.

What those folks don’t understand is that people like my uncle died so that Kaepernick and the rest of those guys in the National Football League,

And the National Basketball Association as I’m sure there will be quite a bit of kneeling at Staples Center and other arenas when that season opens in a few weeks – and every other sports league for that matter,

Can kneel, raise fists, or not come out of the locker room at all like the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks have been doing during the WNBA Finals.

To frown on that is not only a case of free speech,

But a case of denying human rights.

Of course this issue is nothing new, Tommie Smith and John Carlos getting expelled from the Olympic Games in 1968 after displaying their Black Power salutes on the medal stand.

As well as Muhammad Ali getting stripped of his heavyweight title the year before after refusing to be inducted into the army (and undoubtedly getting sent to Vietnam), losing three years of his boxing prime before the Supreme Court overturned his five-year prison sentence.

All of these incidents have one thing in common:

The protagonists’ color of their skin.

And as a black man, I feel I have no choice but to stand in solidarity to those taking a stand against racism, racist injustice, and the hypocrisy that American has exuded to those of its citizens who are not white, male, straight, wealthy, conservative, Christian, or any combination of those six attributes.

Though I wouldn’t kneel during the national anthem due to my family’s involvement in defending that American flag,

While there are many people, particularly African-Americans, who are boycotting NFL games due to this issue,

I would go if I had the opportunity to go to a Rams or Chargers (the two teams in my area) game.

But I would wear a #7 Kaepernick jersey in solidarity.

It would be very wrong to not give these athletes my support in this issue.

Not as long as there are millions of people in these United States – and other countries – that still see me as inferior and a “lesser” due to the color of my skin.


Two Los Angeles Rams making like Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Photo courtesy of





The cover of the Dodgers’ 1978 yearbook, which being that it was only $1 I’m surprised I didn’t get. Photo courtesy of



When I look back on the forty years that I’ve regarded baseball as my all-time favorite sport, it’s inevitable that I recall how it got to be that way.

At the root of it all was my Asperger’s Syndrome, in that as a kid I would get absolutely obsessed about different things; I remember when I was seven or eight being obsessed with maps, studying road atlases and tracing maps of Riverside, CA, where I lived, from the back of the phone book.

This map obsession and various others would fade after a time, but one didn’t.

I was always exposed to baseball as my grandparents, who I lived with as a young boy, were fervent fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Starting in March, a game would usually be showing on the television screen, Vin Scully spinning his stats and stories like he was your best friend.

One of my obsessions as a little boy was the Peanuts comic strip. I practically worshiped Charlie Brown and company – I still make it a point to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, the best animated feature ever made, every holiday season – and part of their antics was their pathetic attempts at playing baseball.



Thirteen youngsters who influenced me in a significant way as far as my getting involved with baseball. Photo courtesy of


When I reached double-digit age in 1977, something else happened to enhance my attraction to baseball…

The Dodgers played in the World Series that year, and being that they were in the Fall Classic I of course watched the games on TV; I’ll never forget how disappointed I was when the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson solidified his “Mr. October” status with those three home runs in Game 6, clinching the title for those pinstripers.

Imagine my further disappointment when those Yankees repeated, at my Dodgers’ expense, the next year; I remember wanting to be a major leaguer so I could get revenge on those Bronx-based people.



One of those influencing baseball moments for me: Bob Welch striking out Reggie Jackson in Game 2 of the 1978 World Series. Courtesy of YouTube.


My first visit to Dodger Stadium, on my 11th birthday in 1978 – I remember it vividly; my mom, some cousins and I sat near the right field foul pole on the field level, Davey Lopes stole four bases, and Don Sutton shut out the Montreal Expos 5-0 – only crystallized my entry into the baseball world, as did a certain movie released a couple of years before depicting a certain little league team whose ineptness remains legendary, The Bad News Bears.

Which along with that first Dodger Stadium visit was the last straw in my becoming  obsessed with the game.

What attracted me and countless others to that movie was the fact that these were real kids playing ball, with an emphasis on the real as that movie did much to influence me.


Part of my first exposure to baseball. Image courtesy of


It was because of The Bad News Bears that I felt that girls could do anything that boys could do as Tatum O’ Neal made like current Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw at mowing down the boys with her fastball.

It was because of The Bad News Bears that I began playing baseball myself – Sunset Little League at Memorial Park in Santa Monica, CA, about a ten minute walk from my home.

And it was because of The Bad News Bears that, having a natural ability at putting the bat on the ball, I dearly wanted to hit like Kelly Leak, the bad-ass delinquent played by Jackie Earle Haley, and worked hard when I transitioned to pick up softball in later years to hit like that character.



One of the greatest endings to a sports movie ever – the last scene of “The Bad News Bears”. Courtesy of YouTube


The next four decades saw me involved in nearly every aspect of baseball and softball, from playing Pony and Colt League Baseball up to age 17 as well as Little League,

To coaching at mostly the youth level, from my brother’s T-Ball team to eventually earning a spot on a high school coaching staff in 2007,

To playing intramural softball in college and pickup softball for the bulk of my adult life.

My obsession with baseball has also manifested itself in my significantly large cap collection, as over the years I have owned the caps of every major league baseball team as well as several college teams, with roughly twenty of them being the cap of my alma mater, UCLA.


Another way in which these Bears influenced my love of baseball, when they played in Houston’s Astrodome in the “Bad News Bears In Breaking Training”. You can spot Astros stars (from left to right) J.R. Richard (my favorite), Bob Forsch, Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson in the dugout. Photo courtesy of



And being the history buff that I am (my bachelor’s degree is in that subject), I consider Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary one of the greatest TV productions ever made as I have extensively studied the game’s past.

While baseball’s not as much of an obsessive thing with me as it was as a kid, I consider Opening Day of the major league season the REAL New Year’s Day, a holiday to celebrate as being an adult about to enter his 50’s, I see baseball as like a warm quilt on a cold day.

It gives me a comfort that other sports like football (though I like the college version and am a longtime fan of UCLA’s team) don’t and can’t give me in that its pace, which people tend to frown on and is a factor in the preference for sports like football and basketball, is leisurely and not stress inducing.

But that’s just me.

All I know is this…

Because of its familiarity and comfort food-like feeling, baseball will always be my favorite sport.

And I have the Dodgers, those Bad News Bears, and Charlie Brown and his crew to thank for that.


The official team photo of the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the reasons why baseball became very dear to me. Photo courtesy of


Concussions, CTE, & Other Debilitating Injuries: Is Football REALLY Worth It?


Members of the reborn Los Angeles Rams, back after 21 years in St. Louis, taking the field at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of




Now that the confetti’s been cleaned up and the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been awarded in Houston, with the team receiving that trophy embarking on their celebratory parade as I write this,

Over the past several years I’ve watched football games on TV and in person and – sometimes in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of  it,

Considering all the stories of former stars and heroes who were seen as near-gods in during their time on the gridiron who are…

  • Unable to remember how to get home from the store as well as sometimes needing help remembering their oldest friends and even their own names
  • Can barely walk without significant pain
  • (In some cases) are paralyzed
  • Broke and homeless or even dead by suicide due to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy suffered from all the hitting on the field

I have wondered if playing the game of football is worth it.

Many big names have ended up as statistics as far as CTE and other permanently painful injuries and how it ultimately ruined their lives, Super Bowl champions like Brett Favre, Jim McMahon, and Harry Carson along with ex-Tennessee Titan Frank Wycheck, who has recently stated his fear of having CTE,

As well as guys who are tragically no longer with us such as former Baltimore Colt and Lite Beer commercial legend Bubba Smith,  Oakland Raider Ken Stabler, and notably Junior Seau, the former USC and San Diego Chargers Hall of Famer who shot himself in 2012.

These are and were the athletes who, suffer from bad headaches and memory loss in addition to the sometimes excruciating pain in their joints and various other body parts.

As former New York Giant Carson described it, in his words he “…doesn’t think as clearly as I used to. Nor is my speech (and) selection of vocabulary as good as it used to be.”

To make it clear, contrary to what some may be thinking I do enjoy football, having been a fervent fan of my collegiate alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for roughly 35 years and having seen them play approximately 130 times.




Philip Rivers, the longtime San Diego Chargers QB who will as of next fall be playing his home games in Los Angeles; he’s another guy whose brain and overall health I’m praying for. Photo courtesy of


I completely understand the appeal of football in this country, how it attracts people not only with its violent, battle-like nature and the pomp and pageantry that goes along with it, i.e., cheerleaders and marching bands (which I was involved with in both high school and at UCLA),

But – more importantly – also with the extreme sense of camaraderie that the game provides in the form of tailgating (my favorite part of football) and simply being with people similar to you as far as the team they root for.

I also completely understand the appeal of playing the game as who wouldn’t want to be adored by anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  Not to mention all the lovely young women in short mini skirts holding pom-poms showing such enthusiasm over what they are doing on the sidelines.

And the fact that injuries suffered on the gridiron are unfortunate but also an occupational hazard that is more or less inevitable.


The more I hear and see all these tragedies stemming from playing football – I’m praying that newly re-crowned Super Bowl hero and the guy who everyone’s saying is the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, doesn’t end up like Carson or (even worse!) Seau with all the hits he must have taken over his nearly 20 years as a New England Patriot,

The more I’m glad I chose to play baseball as a kid and continue to play softball today, because I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the costs of being a football player.

And the more I’m convinced that in the long run, because of its level of safety, longevity (the average NFL career being four years as opposed to 7-10 years for Major League Baseball) and security (the average salary is higher in MLB than in the NFL) compared to football, baseball is the better game to play.

I suppose that’s my answer as to, as much as I still like it and understand that it’s a forever slice of Americana, if I feel football is truly worth it.

By The Way:  On a side note, I think Brady needs to retire as with all the success and accolades he has collected squatting behind the center and throwing spirals, not to mention the many millions he has earned – enough so that his great-grandchildren will be set for life – what more does he need to prove?!



Two guys whose heads I’m fervently hoping and praying will ultimately be OK shaking hands after the recent Super Bowl; the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Patriots’ now-five time NFL champ Tom Brady. Photo courtesy of




A good image of how I’ve spent much of my waking hours for nearly a decade now. Photo courtesy of



I reckon it’s true…

Time really does fly by.

I know it’s a bad cliché, but it also really does seem like yesterday that I was commemorating one year of this website.

In fact, the past few weeks have been full of commemorations as far as this Hartland Chronicles site is concerned as I’ve marked my birthday, written my 100th article, and am now – as of today as my first post was on July 7th, 2014 – marking my second anniversary of having my own blog.

I suppose it’s a good accomplishment and milestone, as I’ve been writing online for the past eight and a half years on various royalty and sports sites and merely felt that it was time to do my own thing and start my own site.

I’ve voiced my opinion on many topics, ranging from Asperger’s Syndrome and the progress of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, my book detailing my experiences of having that form of autism in a non-autistic world (going OK) to movie reviews (specifically the Hunger Games series),

To stating my experiences and opinions on education and the teaching profession,

To political and racial issues,

To being a Christian,

To offering final farewells to folks I admire like Robin Williams, Prince, and Muhammad Ali.

Not to mention detailing the health scare that I went through in October of 2014, a scare that changed how I did things in my life.

Some may say that what I’ve been doing is not too much different from having a journal or a diary; indeed, before I immersed myself in the ways of the internet I kept a journal, writing about my life and my day-to-day experiences and happenings, for a ten-year period – 1993 to 2003 to be precise.

I realize today that it was essentially a diary, only I had no objections to sharing what I wrote.

I like to think that my writing has evolved since that time as when I look at what I wrote in those notebooks back then, as well as the stuff I did online for sites like Hubpages and Bleacher Report, I want to completely rewrite and overhaul more or less all of them, they seem so self-indulgent and “poor me” as far as my articles on Hubpages and Triond and too “rah-rah” as far as my sports posts are concerned.

I think my writings are better now, more objective and a little less emotional – except when it’s an emotional and/or personal issue, of course.


As for the future…

I don’t have any major plans for Hartland Chronicles as this blog is not going anywhere; though my sports fan blog, SoCal Sports Annals (here’s the link: gets much attention and a certain priority as it’s my business for all intents and purposes,

Hartland Chronicles serves a good purpose as it’s my way of expressing myself, getting my thoughts and feelings about topics and issues – personal and otherwise – out there and letting the world know that a (by American society’s standards) middle-aged African-American man with a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder named Derek Hart existed.

This site, my SoCal Sports Annals blog, and my WALKING ON EGGSHELLS book will be, for lack of a better term, the legacies that I will leave after I’m dead and cremated with my ashes scattered.

Which I hope is a long time from now.

In the meantime, I’ll go ahead and feel a sense of accomplishment over celebrating its two-year anniversary.

As well as look forward to its three-year birthday next July 7th.




I don’t know what my mental and emotional state would be like if I wasn’t able to do this. Photo courtesy of




Boxing gloves and a message sit amongst flowers at a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Boxing gloves and a message sit amongst flowers at a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Photo courtesy of



To be completely honest, there’s not much more that can be said about this great iconic legend that hasn’t already been said in the days since his passing.

As for a personal remembrance, a year and a half ago on this blog I wrote about my encounter with Muhammad Ali in 1996 at a bookstore in Santa Monica, CA, where he was promoting a photography book featuring images from his boxing career that his photographer put together.

Seeing Ali in the flesh would have been thrilling enough if it wasn’t for the fact that just before he was scheduled to leave, he pointed at me and waved me over to him, shaking my hand and asking me if I “rumbled”, probably because I was (and still am) a big guy.

Everyone knows about Ali’s winning the heavyweight championship three separate times, as well as his stance against being drafted into the army and shipped off to fight in Vietnam due to him being a Muslim and a conscientious objector, costing him not only his crown, but his boxing license as he was not allowed to fight for three years.

Everyone knows about his epic upset of Sonny Liston in 1964, his “Rumble In The Jungle” in Zaire (now Congo) with George Foreman , and his three even more epic brawls with Joe Frazier, including the 1971 “Fight of the Century” and the 1975 “Thrilla In Manila”.

And everyone knows full well about his humanitarian efforts in the years since his retirement in 1981 as he battled the Parkinson’s disease that was ultimately the main factor in his death.



Muhammad Ali’s (perhaps) biggest single moment: Lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of


As well as perhaps his biggest single moment, lighting the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies in Atlanta in ’96, which incidentally happened just a few months before I got the thrill of my life (to date) in meeting him.


There’s always been one aspect of Muhammad Ali that hasn’t been as noticed as it should have been, that not as many people have pointed out over the course of his life and career:

His sense of humor, as Ali was, in my opinion, the funniest athlete who ever lived.



A video from of Muhammad Ali’s interviews, speeches and various smack talk that showed just how funny he was.



Every time I watched film of him saying “I’m young, I’m strong, I’m fast, I’m pretty, and can’t possibly be beat!”,

Every time I heard Ali call Liston a “big old ugly bear”, saying how he was “…too ugly to be champ! The heavyweight champion should be pretty like me!”

Every time I heard Ali call Frazier a “gorilla” , punching a toy version of one while crowing, “Come on gorilla, we in Manila!” at a pre-fight press conference,

As well as call Foreman a “mummy”,

Every time I heard one of Ali’s poems and make outlandish statements in interviews,

I just cracked up in laughter.

In fact, Ali’s personality and sense of humor reminded me of someone else who had a similar personal chemistry and humorous nature, someone who I was very close to in my youth:

My grandfather, whose birthday, while not nearly in the same year, coincidentally fell in the same week as his.

Indeed, I’ve always felt that if boxing hadn’t worked out for Ali, he would have made a great stand-up comedian alone the lines of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, doing comedy routines at places like the Apollo and the Comedy Store.



A triumphant moment in Ali’s career: Knocking out George Foreman in 1974. Photo courtesy of


Being the great all-around human being that he was, it goes without saying that the evening of June 3rd was a sad one for me; I was grateful that I was able to report the news of Ali’s death on my social media pages as soon as it was announced, as he certainly deserved that.

Ali’s funeral is schedule for this Friday, June 10th, in his hometown of Louisville, KY.

I obviously won’t be there, as I plan to watch it on whatever TV station is covering the proceedings, but I’ll make a concerted effort to keep my sadness to a minimum as I want to celebrate Ali’s tremendous life.

No one deserves it more.

I’m positive that Allah had two words in greeting for the champ as he entered Paradise that June 3rd evening:

“Well Done.”

I’ll now take this moment to say this…

May you rest in peace, Mr. Ali, sir.

Meeting you that time in Santa Monica was the thrill of my life.

I hope you will and Joe Frazier will bury the hatchet once and for all up there.

Give Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and John Wooden my personal warm regards.

And if you see my grandpa, tell him hello from me and my family, and that he is very much loved and missed.



One of the most legendary images of Muhammad Ali: Standing over Sonny Liston, exhorting him to get up after his “Phantom Punch” in the midst of their fight in 1965. Photo courtesy of