Yesterday, Jan. 17, was Muhammad Ali's 65th birthday and I got to see the birthday boy--thanks to work.
At 4p.m., AP's sports department in NY called my boss, Ed, and told him they got word from Billy Crystal's publicist that Billy would salute Ali on stage that night while performing his one-man show, "700 Sundays" at Arizona State. See, we only found out that Ali now lives in a very ritzy enclave of metro Phoenix called Paradise Valley. His move out here was pretty much under the radar. The presentation would happen during intermission between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
Poor Ed had to call around for a photographer. So, our staff photographer had to quickly drive straight from Tucson, two hours away, to get to ASU. After calling a couple of people in our already understaffed bureau, he asked me to go.
In a nutshell, I ended up waiting almost an hour in a sound booth behind the orchestra section at the Gammage Theater for an event that took five minutes. You can see the result here:
Billy Crystal serenades Ali on birthday
I wasn't a happy camper that I had to work late. But I'll admit, afterwards, when I processed everything I saw and the amazement from the theatergoers I interviewed, a part of me was kind of stoked that I got to see an icon like Ali. And it was pretty cool to see and hear 1,000-plus audience sing "Happy Birthday" to him.
The weirdest thing to come out of all this is that I made the AP sports wire. Dude, I suck at catching, kicking and running. The only thing I throw is garbage and that usually doesn't make it into the basket.