Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champ of the world, who now is a boxing promoter, showed up ringside for ESPN’s season finale of Friday Night Fights. Iron Mike took the opportunity to make peace with Teddy Atlas. He said he was sorry for what he did years ago. Apparently, he was referring to a well-publicized incident that occurred years ago. Allegedly, it involved Tyson’s crude behavior toward a young girl related to Teddy’s wife. Tyson, after expressing his sorrow, then hugged Teddy. All is well. It was a release for Tyson, who constantly struggles to turn the corner on his recovery.
The reality is Mike probably doesn’t even remember what he did to deserve Teddy’s wrath. The fog he has lived in ever since his youth must now seem like someone else’s life. It’s likely his memory is so damaged that he must be told by others what he did or didn’t do in years gone by. One thing is clear, though, he knows he was bad and is in need of forgiveness.
All of us know we have no right to judge. Often we are told to leave it to higher authority. Even with earthly civil and criminal matters we are told to remember “a person is innocent until proven guilty”. With Mike Tyson, the problem is less complicated, because he admits his guilt. In a way he’s lucky, because at this point in his life, the sentencing won’t follow, because the statute of limitations has expired.
Hence, Teddy Atlas is almost compelled to forgive Mike, because Mike wants him too. Tyson feels justified in making such a request, because he has recited the compulsory admission of guilt (on TV no less). How could Teddy, in front of the large crowd and TV audience, refuse to be a part of the theatrics?
Should that be the end of it? Should Teddy’s and Mike’s “slates” be wiped clean? Can either or both now act as if the incident never happened? Are any feelings of guilt on behalf of Mike now erased? Is Teddy now rid himself of those feelings of anger and hatred he undoubtedly had? Do both men now feel better about themselves?
Saying “I’m sorry” can have a hollow ring to it, and unfortunately too often that is the case. It’s just too easy to say. Teddy is no dope, and it’s no stretch to belief he feels like President Ronald Reagan did when he was dealing with the Soviet Union. The clever Prez used a Russian Proverb to describe his policy with them and other countries.
He said the United States would “trust but verify”. For us commoners we might say, “The proof is in the pudding”. Both imply another step is necessary. The latter can be accomplished by eating the pudding to determine whether it’s good or not. In order to determine whether Mike is now “good or not” can only be determined by his actions from this day forward. Being sorry and asking for forgiveness cannot happen without repentance.
The truth is Teddy’s memory of the incident might never be wiped clean. Like a chalk board, there will always be some residue. To get the incident erased, Mike must turn away from his former way of life and dedicate himself to a better way. Thankfully, there’s no longer any need for sack cloth and ashes, but it is still necessary to have genuine remorse and to make an effort to avoid becoming a repeat offender. Mike admitted he’s only been clean six days, so there’s good chance he’s already a repeat offender and lacks credibility.
I wish I could remember and give credit to a journalist who commented on difficulties he had writing about Tyson. He explained he had a policy of always trying to search out something positive or admirable about each of his subjects. However, in the case of Tyson, he came up empty. He couldn’t find one thing. He finally came to the conclusion that Tyson was a worthless human being! Harsh words indeed, but Tyson himself has said as much about himself.
Tyson knows and acknowledges he cannot recover without making amends and seeking help and forgiveness. Repentance and restriction must follow. Undoubtedly that’s what Teddy expects. Re-establishing trust is tough for the person trying to do it. It’s something like trying to give a treat to a strange mean looking dog. You nervously hold out the treat, ready to quickly pull back if the canine snaps. You know there’s good chance you might be hurt!
With Mike, real trust will be established when and if his actions speak louder than his words. Mike must demonstrate he has turned away from his old ways. That’s the only thing that will convince Teddy. If that happens, Teddy can wipe his slate clean. That will be verification. It will take time and lots of strength and patience. Let’s hope a day comes when the old Mike Tyson is gone and a better man remains. It will truly warrant a hallelujah!