For The Daily Beast: The Real Reason We ...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle weighs in on the amazing life of the late, great Muhammad Ali and fondly recalls one day 36 years ago, when he spent a day with The Greatest Of All Time. “Muhammad Ali is dead. Who he was and is, a complete man in full, complicated, courageous, charming, multi-dimensional, remains quite alive.” Read the entire column here: “The Real Reason We Will Miss Muhammad Ali”

The Real Reason We Will Miss Muhammad Ali






Jun 9, 1980

Ali had a cold. It had kept him up most of the night and now, just past 7 on Saturday morning, he was sitting in the kitchen of his friend, George Butler, in Marblehead, holding a bottle of pills in the palm of his hand. “One every 12 hours,” he mumbled. “Think I can remember that?” “Want some orange juice, Muhammad?” Butler asked.

“Yeah, orange juice,” Ali answered. “And some ice. Got some ice?”

Ali poured the orange juice over the ice cubes. He placed the pill in his mouth and swallowed after the first sip of the drink. Time and things like common colds are now his enemy.

He is 38, this phenomenon of our age. He is, perhaps, the most famous, the most easily recognizable figure in the world. His name – Ali – summons a hundred different emotions whenever and wherever it is mentioned. Three different times he has been heavyweight champion of the world. But he has been much more.

“I don’t have no boss,” Ali was saying. “I don’t have to call no one. I’m a free agent. I do what I wanna do. And my purpose is to teach; to be the first black man that got big. And I’m the biggest thing on earth. I know that. And I’m free.

“When I went to Russia, I went in to see Brezhnev and he got up from his desk and came over and put his arms around me. He says, I been waitin’ to meet you for a long time. All the Russian people know you. And the next day, when I went back to see him, he had his grandchildren there and he says, They know you too.”‘

Ali has marched through history with a grace that knows no time and a style that has conceded nothing to the events around him. He threw away his Olympic gold medal. He changed his name when he found religion. He refused to be drafted during the war in Vietnam. And he kept on fighting and talking; talking and fighting. He has spent 187 nights ducking quick lefts and right hands full of thunder to either defend or get the championship of heavyweights. Now, there are some who say that all of this has taken its toll and Ali suffers from brain damage.

“Could be,” he said, when asked about a doctor’s theory. “Anytime you get knocked out, even for a few seconds, there’s probably brain damage.

“But all that talk’s just people tryin’ to discredit me. Tryin’ to make people think I’m off so they don’t listen to me. But I know that God has got me here for something special. When I was in Russia, I realized there was something divine about my life. A black man in Russia. Imagine that.”

He checked his watch and saw it was almost eight in the morning. Later in the day, Harvard was going to honor him by making Ali an honorary member of the Class of l975. The school had only done that once before, in l930, for Walter Lippmann. “Make sure they mention that,” Ali said.

“Who’s the greatest man you ever met?” Ali was asked as he played with a cup of tea.

“Elijah Muhammad,” he said right away. “He took a whole nation and made them people. People who used to call themselves Negroes, he changed them to callin’ themselves black.

“Why were we called negroes? Is there a country called negro? Chinese, they come from China. Cubans called Cubans cause they come from Cuba. Germans from Germany. French from France. What country’s called Negro. He made us proud. He taught us.

“A black cup of coffee is a strong cup. Black earth is rich earth. Allah made me a world wonder. Allah made me millions. I gave up a lot too. I gave up my title. I fought against the white man’s war in Vietnam. I did this by myself and I was right.

“You say, Anything scare you, Ali?’ What could scare me? I had my jaw broken in a ring. Look at this,” he said, holding up his fist. “You know what would happen to your head if I hit you with this? Vietnam. Gettin’ drafted. Scared of what? What could scare me after all the things I done. Only thing I’m scared of is Allah and his punishment. I’m a spiritual man.

“Superstar don’t mean shit to me. I don’t care about discos. No stuff like that. God made this planet and he created a fighter for God. That’s me.

“And I do what I wanna do. No one could talk like this. That’s my purpose, to talk and to teach. Sure, I played the fool sometimes and they paid me millions to do it.”

Over in the corner of Butler’s kitchen, Howard Bingham, a close friend of Ali and Abdul Rahman, who travels with the champion, had gotten up from the table. Ali’s wife, Veronica, had come downstairs just as three students from Harvard arrived at the house to escort the man into Cambridge.

One of the students was named George Jackson. Jackson grew up in Harlem around Lenox Avenue. His father changes tires and his mother works at the Amsterdam News and the son, being smart and very good at football, just graduated from Harvard on Thursday.

“What’s your name?” Ali asked George Jackson. “George Jackson,” the champion was told.

“Why don’t you use your real name,” Ali wanted to know. “Get a book of history and pick out your pretty name, your name that means something. Now I’m not talkin’ racism. I’m talkin’ truth.”

“Maybe I will,” Jackson said.

“You went to Harvard huh?” Ali wanted to know. “That’s right,” Jackson answered.

“Well you not as dumb as you look then. That’s real good. You gonna make something of yourself. But you oughta use your real name. I bet all your life people was tellin’ you you’d never be nothing.”

“My whole life,” George Jackson said. “Until Thursday.”

“That’s good brother,” said Muhammad Ali. “That’s real good.”

For The Daily Beast: America Is Still a ...

On this Memorial Day, Mike Barnicle’s latest column for The Daily Beast suggests cutting through the toxicity clogging our collective culture to remember those who died giving back to our country, including his own uncle – the one he never knew – Lt. Gerald J. Barnicle: “Killed in action… Battle of Midway… Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.” Barnicle writes: “When you look away from the daily dump of false promises, fake empathy and foolish rhetoric of Trump and Clinton, when you put your phone down and stop staring at the screen, when you pause—actually take the time—to stop, think and remember who we are, still, and have been, always, you cannot help feel a slight sense of optimism as well as an obligation to those who flew off over the Pacific, landed on Okinawa or Omaha Beach, walked out of the Chosin Reservoir, hunkered down at Khe Sanh and Hue City, went door to door in Fallujah or encountered life and death in Helmand Province. We remain the greatest beacon of hope and freedom of expression the world has ever known.”

America Is Still a Gift to the World

For The Daily Beast: The Timeless Beauty...

In his latest column for the Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle celebrates Major League Baseball’s opening day and reflects upon the enduring allure of the sport. “That’s one of the great gifts of this, the greatest of all games, baseball: it allows you, still, to lose yourself in a dream, to feel and remember a season of life when summer never seemed to die and the assault of cynicism hadn’t begun to batter optimism. Baseball is a game that shouts ‘Slow Down’ to America. Stop tweeting, texting, blogging, watching cable news, and obsessing about polls, lost planes, and focus group-driven politicians. Baseball is the perfect antidote to one of the particular cultural poisons of the age,” writes Mike. Read Mike’s column on the parallels between the game of baseball and life itself—and then go find your glove! You can also read and watch Mike’s baseball commentary over the years at

The Timeless Beauty of Baseball

For The Daily Beast: What Bobby Kennedy ...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle resurrects a prescient message delivered by Bobby Kennedy to an angry America in 1968 — one that serves as a much needed distinction and reminder of what true leadership and greatness really mean in a time of increasing violent tensions, currently at campaign rallies for Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.

“The weekend’s eruptions were nothing new,” writes Mike. “The flame has been simmering for months, the low fire burning beneath the surface as the candidate arrives with an arsonist’s vocabulary… He focuses on the weakest elements of human nature: envy, anxiety and apprehension of what might happen.”

In contrast, then candidate Robert Kennedy, just hours after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, reminded America that “too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force and too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others.” Read Mike’s column here and find meaning in the words of RFK.

What Bobby Kennedy Would Say To Trump

For The Daily Beast: The Two Americas Be...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle writes about the not-so-surprising success of presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, who are appealing to the prevailing mood of people living in small towns, medium size cities and rural enclaves across America, who have been abandoned or marginalized by the system. Read Mike’s entire column on why and how the two candidates, as contrary as they are, are reaching folks whose “voices are not heard, where dreams are now nearly dead, where a generation of hard work and solid wages have been hollowed out or stolen as the establishment sat on its hands unwilling to fight an economic system geared to satisfying shareholders before addressing the real needs of families that once thought they were on a level playing field, the future is now filled with dread instead of a dream.”

The Two Americas Behind Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

For The Daily Beast: The Man Who Will No...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle writes about his first-hand experience during South Carolina’s Republican primary and the rage and despair being fed to voters by most presidential candidates. “Listening to some of the Republican candidates for President is like eavesdropping on men trying to earn their letter sweater with worthless phrases—carpet bombing, crushing ISIS—as if words alone will accomplish the mission and the lives of those sent into the fight are merely an anonymous squadron of props used to advance a political agenda,” writes Mike of the disconnect between political ambitions and the realities of war. Read Mike’s full column here and learn why he says Ohio Governor John Kasich is one candidate who stands apart from the rest peddling doom and gloom this election year.

The Man Who Will Not Bow to Fearmongering

For The Daily Beast: They Vote for Trump...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle boils down his recent experiences in New Hampshire and highlights the palpable similarities between the supporters of last night’s primary winners, Donald J. Trump and Bernie Sanders. “Both, in their own way, speak to the volatility rumbling beneath the surface of daily life in America, 2016; to the anxiety, the simmering anger, the feeling that nothing works and hard work is no longer valued as much as it once was…,” writes Mike of presidential candidates Trump and Senator Sanders. Read Mike’s column on how Americans’ resentment toward do-nothing-politicians, ongoing war and economic instability since 2008 contributed to yesterday’s election results, for both the Republicans and the Democrats.

They Vote for Trump and Sanders to Feel Like Winners

For The Daily Beast: Christie on Rubio: ...

Ahead of the presidential primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Mike Barnicle’s latest column for The Daily Beast takes a look at the Republican governors on the ballot—Ohio Governor John Kasich, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush—and how their office may help them respond better to voter concerns. “None of the senators running have to make decisions about getting a curb cut for a company relocating in their state. In Washington, the plague of drug abuse, the reality of death by overdose, the cheapness and availability of fentanyl and heroin is an abstract talking point. A governor is on the line every day, all day.” Read Mike’s first-hand accounts from Nashua, New Hampshire here.

Christie on Rubio: 'Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Hit in the Face'

Presidential Politics, The Mike Barnicle Way

Presidential Politics, The Mike Barnicle Way

You can bump into a lot of people in the lobby at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire at the height of a frenzied primary season. Jim Braude and Margery Eagan would know. They’ve set up shop there to broadcast live primary coverage through Tuesday evening, and today, none other than famed Boston-based broadcaster Mike Barnicle—former Boston Globe columnist and contributor to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC—joined them on set to give his perspective on this year’s colorful presidential race.

For The Daily Beast: Iowa’s History of W...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle profiles a pocket of diversity in Des Moines, Iowa, leading up to today’s caucuses there. “For weeks now and nearly every day as people finally begin to vote, the one common thread that has united Republicans has been the fear that immigrants are destroying the country, standing in the way of America’s own children from landing lucrative positions like cleaning offices, emptying hospital bed pans, toweling off a Lexus at the car wash, mowing lawns and picking up lunch trays at Panera Bread,” writes Mike. Read Mike’s column on one Catholic community in Iowa that, despite the latest political rhetoric, continues to shine a beacon of hope for the American immigrant experience here.

Iowa’s History of Welcoming Refugees

For The Daily Beast: Bernie Mania is Rea...

In his latest column for The Daily BeastMike Barnicle takes a look at a struggling America—from the dwindling middle class comprised of families living paycheck-to-paycheck to the marginalized residents of Flint, Michigan, who don’t have safe water to drink—and the people finding hope in the presidential campaign of a 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. “Sanders has never wavered from his core beliefs across four decades. Now, the cross-currents of culture, politics, endless war, anxiety, frustration, a 2008 economic collapse of markets and confidence have swirled together to present Hillary Clinton with a ghost of 2008: A man, another man, whose time may have simply arrived… for the moment,” writes Mike of Bernie Sander’s threat to Hillary Clinton’s campaign ahead of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. Read Mike’s column here on the undeniable effects of the Bernie Sanders campaign for The White House.

Bernie Mania is Real and Powerful

Trent Lott & Tom Daschle discuss &#...

This Thursday, at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate in Boston, don’t miss Mike Barnicle in conversation with Senator Trent Lott and Senator Tom Daschle. Click here to RSVP:

Trent Lott & Tom Daschle discuss "Crisis Point" with Mike Barnicle

Trent Lott & Tom Daschle discuss "Crisis Point" with Mike Barnicle

For The Daily Beast: Requiem for a Union...

In Mike Barnicle’s latest column for The Daily Beast, he writes about the beloved Boston firefighter and union leader Mike Mullane, who died recently at age 68. Mullane was the longest serving member of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“For more than a decade now, unions in America have been under a more sustained assault than our government sometimes seems to have waged against ISIS,” writes Barnicle in reference to Mullane’s legacy as an unyielding champion for firefighters and their families amid the uncertain future of labor unions in today’s America.

You can read the entire column here.

Requiem for a Union Boss in His America

For The Daily Beast: My Christmas Wish: ...

In the most recent column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle hopes that the upcoming holiday serves as a much needed reprieve from the cartoonish, yet dangerous, lowest-denominator presidential campaigns of fear that have consumed American politics this year. “Thankfully, it’s Christmas Week, and the fires of their ambition will be forced to a low simmer while the rest of us pause for a breath. For normal people, this is a week to reflect on hope and mercy and memory,” writes Mike. Read Mike’s thoughts on putting this Christmas break to good use.

My Christmas Wish: Stop Warmongering for Political Gain

For The Daily Beast: The Only Thing They...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle examines the current culture of fear that has permeated our everyday lives and the people who are pushing it. “We have ‘a clockwork orange’ parade of candidates seeking to capitalize on the legitimate worry many have about where the world is headed. In the days since a matched and married pair of Islamic terrorists in San Bernardino shattered our slight sense of security people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have acted as if ISIL is a reincarnation of The Wehrmacht.” Wow! Who are these guys? And why do they insist on serving us a constant take-out diet of ready-to-eat fear? A buffet that a lot of people devour.” Read the entire column here.

The Only Thing They’re Selling Is Fear

For The Daily Beast: Ground Zero For Ele...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike takes a close look at a serious national problem that is overwhelming the small state of New Hampshire—cheap heroin. “The issue of overdoses, death, the availability of heroin and its impact has created a ripple effect on the presidential primary campaign. The immediacy of a needle and a $10 dollar high is seen as more of a clear and present danger than ISIS or a gasoline tax,” writes Mike. Read the full column here and meet Lt. Jessica Wyman, who is fighting the good fight to save lives inside this important primary election state.

Ground Zero For Election 2016—And Heroin Deaths

For The Daily Beast: Will Syria Be Obama...

In today’s column for The Daily Beast, Mike ponders whether President Barak Obama’s recent decision to send special forces into Syria will wind up being a lot like the mistake made 50 years ago in another conflict in a far off land. Read the column here.

Will Syria Be Obama's Vietnam?

For The Daily Beast: Hillary Clinton, Tr...

In his latest column for The Daily Beast, Mike shines the spotlight on the true consequences of failed politics and war—most recently personified by the death of Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a 39-year-old, highly decorated Army veteran of 14 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “It is an old story. Political people give speeches and espouse positions declaring that America is the best and strongest nation in the world. And then in order to prove our power we too often send the few, the young and the brave off to fight and die in lands that will remain chaotic, ungovernable and violent for decades to come,” writes Mike. Read the full column on why—from Vietnam to Afghanistan—the disconnect between American politicians and the realities of war is an old story.

Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy, and the True Victims of Playing Politics with War

Happy Birthday!

Mika Brzezinski and the Morning Joe team celebrate Mike Barnicle’s birthday with him today!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!