Mike Tyson – Lost and Lonely

04.01.07 - By Matthew Hurley: There is a feeling among many when it comes to Mike Tyson that you reap what you sow. For so many years Tyson has infuriated and disappointed so many people, be they defenders or critics, that it’s a wonder all these years removed from his fistic prime that he should remain a source of interest to anyone at all. But there is something compelling about the man, and something sadly tragic.

In an age where a celebrity simply can’t get away with anything Tyson has become fodder for ridicule and finger-pointing because the former street tough is what he always was – a man-child. When he showed boxing promise he was sheltered by mentor Cus D’Amato who allowed him every benefit of the doubt and fired employees like Teddy Atlas who dared to reprimand the wunderkind. Tyson, at nineteen, took up residence in a fish bowl and was never allowed to mature. Much like an Elvis Presley everything was handed to him and every indiscretion was covered up until all the damage had been done and he was beyond repair.

Recently, Tyson was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs and, as if that wasn’t enough, was in possession of an indeterminate amount of cocaine. Allegedly, the befuddled former heavyweight champion of the world remarked that he was addicted to the substance but said so in an off the cuff manner befitting a man who just doesn’t seem to care anymore. Of course, it could be said that Tyson stopped caring about much of anything quite a long time ago.

So why should we still care? Because we are all a bit complicit in his downfall. Certainly most hard-nosed cynics will scoff at that and, perhaps, rightly so. But why is it that we want our heroes or idols to represent our needs and aspirations and then fault them when they turn out to be flawed and human? Why is it if a cultural icon, and Tyson, for better or worse is that, doesn’t satisfy us we are so prepared to forget the pleasure they provided at one point in time and crucify them? Mike Tyson is more than a flawed human being and he seems to wear his crown of thorns with thuggish glee, but at one point we applauded that thuggish persona when it suited our needs. We wanted an undisputed, “baddest man on the planet” and Iron Mike fit the bill. Unfortunately, iron rusts and Tyson no longer provides the in-ring thrills. He just elicits scorn from those he left behind or elitist yawns behind the back of the hand by so called intellectuals who wouldn’t know the difference between a left hook or a left jab.

It’s telling that Mike Tyson has often alluded to the doomed Sonny Liston as a personal hero. He understood Liston’s plight before we all realized he was more like Liston than we would have ever cared to believe. There was a time when that famous lisp was not only charming but seemingly indicative of a little boy trapped in an over-muscled body. Tyson was smart enough to sell that image, but he wasn’t strong enough to sustain it. But it was good while it lasted. Now he’s not just a beaten down old fighter, he’s a shell of a man going out to clubs getting drunk and getting high and wondering aloud just what the hell happened to him.

Sometimes he actually seems to enjoy the notoriety. Sometimes he taunts the demons in his head by embarrassing himself publicly. But most of the time he just doesn’t seem to care anymore. There is something very sad about that.

Mike Tyson may again be facing a long prison sentence. He may even end up in jail for a longer period of time than when he served for a rape conviction. In his mug shot he rather lazily sticks out his tongue, as if he wants to still be a bad ass but doesn’t really have the energy or will to even look defiant anymore. Tyson’s story will probably not end happily. We’ve all known this for some time now, both his defenders and his detractors. Still, no matter what side of the fence you reside, there is such a sense of waste and loss. He could have been so much more. Instead, he became what he always truly was – a lost kid from the wrong side of the tracks.

Article posted on 05.01.2007

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