Bill Peronneau/eyevine/ZUMA Press
Who's the Fairest of Them All?: Nobody ever loved Ali as much as he loved himself.

"All a man has got to show for his time here on earth is what kind of name he had. Jesus. Columbus. Daniel Boone." He left a space for me to fill in his name.

I didn't laugh, it was good copy after all, but I was also thinking about Ali as a narcissist with the emotional well of a 12-year-old, plus a touch of megalomania.

Then again, he was scheduled to be drafted in two days. It was clear that he would refuse and that he was ready to go to jail.

Meanwhile, the mood of the country over the Vietnam War was shifting. More people realized we were stuck in a terrible mistake. Also, more people were coming to believe that Ali was sincere, that he was standing up for principles.

Could you be a wise man and fool at the same time?

As we sat in a coffee shop watching Lake Michigan roil beneath an April storm, he said, "Now take Wyatt Earp."

It took me a moment to dial into the legendary Western lawman who had cleaned up Wichita and Tombstone a century earlier. He'd recently been reborn in a TV series.

"Who would have told him when he was fighting crooks and standing up for principles that there'd be a television show about him? That kids on the street would say, 'I'm Wyatt Earp. Reach!'"