Boxing champion and icon Muhammad Ali recently celebrated his 70th birthday.
And while that may not sound like a significant event to anyone under the age of 40, it does carry some weight with an older generation.
My first recollection of Ali came in February of 1964 - a very troubling time in this country.
The assassination of President John Kennedy less than three months previous was a tragic event that hung over the country like an ominous dark cloud.
There were just a few things that helped the nation take its mind off the events in Dallas.
An English rock band named the Beatles was dominating the Top 40 music charts that long ago winter and would soon make television history on the popular Ed Sullivan Show.
TV shows like Route 66, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke and The Lawrence Welk Show were also at the top of the viewing list.
On the local sports scene, Michigan Tech coaching legend John MacInnes was building a powerhouse that would win a NCAA hockey title just one year later.
Houghton High was battling for a Copper Country Conference basketball title behind senior guard Jon Fryxell. But Hancock - a year away from going unbeaten in the regular season - was a force behind junior center Pete Wickley.
In February of 1964, my J.A. Doelle team was winding down a disappointing season. With four starters back from a team that had led Class D state runner-up Negaunee St. Paul for most of the game before losing the season before, the tall Spartans were seen as a major threat by many Upper Peninsula observers.
But key injuries, a severe case of "senioritis" (not enough basketballs to go around) and a demoralizing 80-54 loss at St. Paul in early February had left the team's record at 8-5.
In that game, SP ace Dominic Jacobetti torched us for 37 points in three quarters. We had held him to 15 the year before.
Like the nation itself, the team had fallen into a deep malaise as that long winter of discontent winded down.
Back in those days, basketball stood alone atop local sports circles. Formation of a high school hockey league was still five years away, and girls sports wouldn't arrive on the scene until 1973.
The game itself was played at higher level than today. Most teams had four or five players capable of hitting double figures and defense was a sometimes thing.
No less than six state champions (and four state runner-ups) had come from the Copper Country area between 1955 and 1966. It was a golden era for hoops, you might say.
Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, was preparing to meet Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. Liston was a menacing bully who was Mike Tyson long before there was a Mike Tyson. He was expected to dispatch the brash challenger in short time.
A few of us made the trip to the Copper Bowl Lanes in Ripley on a cold Tuesday night to watch the fight on closed-circuit TV. Sports on the tube back then was vastly different than today, and a heavyweight title bout was still considered a major event.
Ali stunned Liston and the world by with an early knockout that night. His well-publicized opposition to the Vietnam War later on made him an anti-hero of sorts to many young people.
Perhaps encouraged by Ali's upset, our team suddenly started playing the kind of ball we were capable of. We averaged more than 80 points in running off four straight wins.
Our opponent in the district tournament was a solid Baraga team led by sharpshooting guard Larry Kangas. We fell behind early before rallying to within four points late in the game. But the rally, like our season, came too little and too late.
Baraga upset St. Paul in the regional finals and advanced to the state finals before losing to Britton-Macon.
That Viking team is remembered as a group that overachieved in a big way. The 1964 Doelle team is remembered - if it is remembered at all - as one that failed to live up to expectations.
But that's the way life was ... in that winter of discontent.