Mike Tyson: Is He Still Kidding Himself?

13.06.05 - By Wray Edwards: One evening, not long ago, Mike requested the keys to my brother-in-law's Escalade and left camp to head for the big city. It seems that the Spartan surroundings of the training camp were not sufficiently entertaining for him that week. He probably missed the excitement and social adulation of the scene at the posh Marina Del Rey hotel he had left a day or two earlier. From there he went on an odyssey around the country (Miami, New York, Phoenix) like a moth looking for a flame. The end result of all of that was to be standing, once again, on a tightly stretched piece of cloth in front of a big, white guy. He fluttered into the ring, flew too close to his own limitations (once again) and got burned.

I have compared him before to the archetype of King Kong trying to hang on to the spire of the Empire State Building while most of the world tried to shoot him down in rejection of the fascinating, primal energies he represents. The epitaph "Has Beauty killed the beast" is still apt. Whether it was beautiful women, cars, clothes, houses, promoter promises or whatever, Mike was blinded by the light of those enticements. The touching three or four hour retrospective presented by ESPN before this weekend's fight, was a poignant reminder of the agony and ecstasy of this man˘s life to date..

Tyson, with the willing help of others, based his life and survival on predatory behavior. His fantasy of being "leader of the pack" whether he was knocking a little old lady down to snatch her purse, or taking on the toughest guys on the planet, was just that; a fantasy. He sold himself a bill-of-goods, and so did a succession of trainers and managers. One of the most dangerous things in life is to start believing your own hype. His cunning and guile have, and always will, come full-circle, for he is too smart by half and that is always the downfall of any would-be despot.

His use of physical attributes and early successes were based on infantile goals, and that is why 300 million, or so, was not enough. Sudden wealth and fame have claimed almost countless lives: Keith Moon, Bon Scott, Jimmys Dean and Hendrix, Rickey Nelson, Johns Beluschi and Candy, Kurt Cobaine and many many others. What could Tyson do to avert such tragedy?

He should go to Sudan for the next ten years and see how the other half lives. This current reality check is but superficial unless he really abandons the materialistic and social womb which is American society. Not that western civilization is generally bad for humans, as some would argue, but a man like Mike probably does not know, or truly understand, what it means that fifty percent of the planet˘s population have never even made a phone call. If he volunteers to work in urban ghettos or some such setting, he will be too close to the temptations of his early and recent past. Too close to superficial love.

How many times have we seen people repent and vow to make radical changes, only to revert to old haunts and ways? Being over-stimulated by the whirl of western civilization or depressed by its challenges can, to some extent, be successfully medicated, but chemical lobotomy in order to make one behave in an acceptable manner is dangerous. Unfortunately it robs a fighter of what he needs to prevail. The yo-yo effect of putting Mike on anti-depressants between fights and tapering him off as he trains for the next were a certain prescription for emotional chaos.

As a powerful shark in boxing waters, Mike attracted schools of remoras (parasitic sucker fish) which attached themselves with merciless efficiency. His image, though outwardly that of a healthy human, was inwardly perverted by these hangers-on and by his juvenile avarice. Mountains of fur coats, limos, houses, publicity and orchestrated success did not instruct for twenty years. These accoutrements accumulated like the extra flesh on the Elephant Man (John Merrick) disfiguring him to his own eyes and those of others.

He does, in fact have a similar appeal to Merrick. His nascent freak value is unquestionable, but does he have an as yet untapped talent or resource with which to become valuable to others in some new enterprise? Many people have started all over at age forty and made huge contributions to the world. The trick is to pick a new vocation for which he is now better suited. Tyson is like the race driver who when asked why he crashed said, "Well, I guess I just got a little behind in my steering." Mike also got a little behind in his physical youth.

In the days before he took the Escalade, people who had his best interests at heart tried to show him the beauty of nature and life. The gentle curves of PCH and the bright sun shining on the rolling surf of the Pacific did not reach his heart as they had hoped. Riding on the coast of the sea which Lewis and Clark saw as they completed civilizations circumnavigation of planet Earth, Mike was unable to understand that when physical explorations are completed, one must look successfully inward and explore self.

They talked to him in hopeful, gentle and friendly terms. They offered him hospitality, comfort and safety. He didn't understand. I know these people and they are perhaps the most well-meaning group who ever tried to help Mike get a clue and make a change for the better. Yes, yes, the road to hell, with good intentions and all of that, but seriously folks. He was not then ready to benefit from their efforts. He had not sufficiently bottomed out to be able to take his eye off of his voracious ego of physical combat, and participate in a new vision of his inner self. They really tried hard to help with this. They didn't try to enroll him at Eselen or some such thing, though that might actually have helped. It was a more mundane effort than that.

I am completely serious when suggesting a trip to Africa. His name would be a complete entr╩e in most places, and rather than just making celebrity appearances to encourage the natives, he needs to roll up his sleeves and pitch in. A few photos of Tyson in a role of serving others would be refreshing. One of my favorite pictures is of Audrey Hepburn in Africa doing just that. Just in case you are curious, this writer has been there and done that also; so I know whereof I speak. It was not for recognition or self-satisfaction. It was done out of curiosity to understand self in a new setting, and learn about the lives of others.

In the movie "Seconds," Rock Hudson's character finally understands that he has allowed others to chart his course for too long. His goal then becomes to do it from his own center from then on. Whether Tyson has, finally, encountered enough tribulation cause by the advice of others (including me), to actually be motivated to make a vital mid-course correction, assuming he has a center, remains to be seen. There is no doubt that he has made a mark of sorts in Boxing and the World. Now, hopefully, he will be able to step away and become a pleasant curiosity as we hear about his new, successful life, dedicated to others, even if it's something like plumbing, or home construction or physical education.

He may not know it now, but in switching from egotistical self-indulgence and challenging others, to serving them with ethical intent, he will derive rewards far beyond anything he has ever experienced. This projected wish for him would be wasted on many. There is, however, a special energy in this man which, if it could be harnessed to do good, would completely vindicate his life. Give it a shot Mike. It's your only chance.

Article posted on 13.06.2005

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