Why is it we always learn more about a person after they are gone? Since Muhammad Ali’s death last week more stories have come out about his humanitarianism than his boxing prowess. I’ve watched interview after interview with neighbors, friends, opponents and acquaintances and not one of them talked about his boxing. Rather they told stories about his love of people, especially children, and the influence he had on their lives.
I thought I’d heard them all when my son sent me a story that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly about Ali’s role in the release of Josh Fattal and his two friends who were detained for 781 days for allegedly crossing the Iranian border while hiking. After more than a year of frustrating diplomatic roadblocks experienced by State Department officials and other world leaders, the big guns were called in — enter Muhammad Ali. Read When Muhammad Ali Was In My Corner by Josh’s brother Alex Fattal.
The story of Josh Fattal is personal to me. My sons went to school and played ball with Josh in Cheltenham and I coached him in Little League. I never imagined this little easy going, funny kid would one day be in the center of an international dispute. It was surreal turning on the nightly news or CNN and seeing Josh, his brother Alex and his mom and dad in the White House, the State Department or in Iran.
The experience made me think about stories we routinely see on the news. Whether it’s a horrible mass shooting like the one over the weekend at a gay nightclub in Orlando or a young woman assaulted at a frat party, the victims are real people. They all have moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers. They are all part of our human family.