Circa- early 1980's- It was mid-morning and you can imagine my excitement knowing I was going to meet Muhammed Ali at a news conference in the Quad Cities.
Wow. He was retired from boxing at that point and suffering from the early onset of Parkinson's.
We (media) gathered in a hotel room for the press conference.
I was Sports Anchor for WOC-TV at that time in Davenport, Iowa.
There was a very sizeable entourage with Muhammed. He was in town for a charity benefit.
Well, during the press conference I started to think, why not ask if Muhammed would like be live on our 6pm newscast.
I figured this could be doable because our ratings at that time carried 60% of the market-largest ratings percentage by any NBC affiliate in the country I was told.
So, I explained that side of the story to Muhammed chief handler, and was told they would get back to me.
Needless to say I never expected anything. Just waited for the call.
About two hours later, I got it. Muhammed Ali would be live with me at 6!
I was stunned and excited at the same time. In my mid-20's, you can imagine there was a little intimidation factor rolled into this opportunity.
I had seen countless Ali interviews with Howard Cosell. I wasn't Howard.
Whatever else happened that day in sports locally or nationally took a backseat to Muhammed. He would be the entire four minutes.
I worried all afternoon if he would show up.
My news director, Jack Thompson was really excited as was just about everyone I can remember that worked at the station.
If he didn't show, I was going to look like an idiot.
It was 5:45. Sports was at 6:15 and still no Muhammed Ali.
I was hanging out at the front entrance of the station which was on the top of the hill on Brady Street.
Whatever traffic was coming, I could see it.
Either I was going to walk into that studio with Muhammed, or I think I was going to run down that hill and never look back.
Five minutes to six, I spotted a limousine coming up Brady. It was Muhammed.
They parked in our circular driveway as my heart stopped pounding from the thought of a no-show.
We were going to make TV sports history in the Quad Cities. The one and likely the only live on-set newscast interview with "The Greatest."
Little did I know that after the interview was over the real history was made.
Going into the break before sports, we did our live tease, Muhammed and me, he grabbed my sports coat with that clenched fist and iconic facial expression. It was just like the Cosell era,
Our four minute interview, I think we might have gone longer, was actually pretty good considering I was nervous and I could hardly hear Muhammed's answers because he was almost whispering.
When it ended we shook hands and my personal brush with Muhammed Ali was over, At least that's what I thought..
Ali and his entourage had to get going for their charity appearance. I walked them out of the building, and when we got outside, I never have seen a sight like this before.
Kids, ALOT of kids were running up the hill to our station, crossing a busy Brady Street, to get a look at Muhammed Ali.
It was then I realized he was truly one of the greatest.
The sight brought a big smile to his face. It brought a big smile to all our faces.
It was then that I realized that my biggest moment in my TV career was transcended by what followed a short time later.
He spent time with the kids, and then took off for his charity function.
I went to have dinner alone, thinking about the day I just experienced. Wondering if there would be another one like it again.
RIP Muhammed and thanks for that day in Davenport, Iowa. You opened my eyes.