Maybe Muhammad Ali wanted to be on that golf cart Wednesday night. Maybe he wanted to hear a crowd’s cheers one more time. Maybe he actually feels a real strong connection to Miami, where he beat Sonny Liston in 1964 and where the Marlins opened their brand-new stadium Wednesday.
If that’s the case, if “the Greatest of All Time” was eager and anxious to be part of Opening Day ceremonies at Marlins Park, officials should have come up with something else. Perhaps a brief shot of him on the video screen, waving from the owner’s suite. Because putting him on a golf cart for an excruciatingly slow ride from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound was a total buzzkill.
The scene didn’t fit the rest of the evening, which was joyous, festive and celebratory. Instead, Ali’s appearance was sad, awkward and eerie. When the crowd stopped trying to muster up cheers and a half-hearted “Ali, Ali!” chant, it watched in stunned silence. The 70-year-old former champion, his frail body ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, trembled uncontrollably as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria wrapped an arm around him.
Loria, who isn’t very popular among fans, likely would have been booed if Ali weren’t next to him. That’s one reason the move to include Ali seemed so exploitative — Loria using him as a shield and unnecessary, high-profile prop.