Mike Tyson - Get Off His Back!!

18.12.05 - By Wray Edwards: Resisting writing an article about the Iron Man for years has taken its toll on the author. Let’s start off on the right foot here by saying: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”…and that goes as well for those who think or imagine that they have been wronged, in any way, to a greater or lesser degree, by Mike. That saying may seem a platitude to some, but it is good advice. Why?...Because hatred and resentment resides in the hater and do nothing to the target of such emotions. If you’ve got a beef with Mike you can’t exorcise in the ring or in court, get over it. Otherwise, you’re just poisoning yourself and probably deserve it.

The author's family has had business and professional dealings with the man. That relationship is now past history and does not, therefore, represent a conflict of interest in the writing of these remarks. One thing we found refreshing (IMO a good thing) about the man, was his proclivity to make spontaneous statements. Though embarrassingly naïve or overly candid at times, Mike’s statements left little doubt about his intentions and where you stood in relation to him. To those with thin skins or self doubt, that might be threatening, but its way better than dealing with one who puts energy into hidden agendas and subterfuge. So let’s get down to cases and drop the pretense..

Boxing is, essentially, entertainment. If one is good at it (entertaining), the person often becomes famous: larger than life. Now a movie or TV star only becomes a target in the private sector from tabloids, entertainment reporters and/or paparazzi. The most threatening thing pointed at them during a performance is a friendly camera, director’s finger or screaming fans. In the course of their performances they are not intentionally confronted by another person in potentially mortal combat. Boxers, however, entertain by risking their lives in such a setting. Most of us can only guess at what these men face upon entering the ring of combat. So, they are in double jeopardy on and off the stage.

“Larger than life” often equals “target”, no matter what made the person famous. There are sickos out there, like the guy who shot John Lennon who, have so little going for them, that they detest the accomplishments of others as if they are a personal affront to them. I used to get embarrassed when my classmates played musical instruments or displayed some other talent, until it became clear to me that it was because I had nothing to offer to gain attention, or feel the satisfaction of being able to contribute to the enjoyment of others. Once the ability to contribute was acquired, things got much better and I was then free to enjoy the accomplishments of others.

Things get worse if the star is controversial like Mike. A poster once remarked to us here that he would not know what to say to Gatti because, “…he’s such a warrior”. Well, having spoken with many of them, you may rest assured that that does not make them unapproachable. As a matter of fact most of them, outside the ring, are pretty easy to talk to if you can keep your foot out of your mouth, and resist the temptation to patronize them or be a too eager fan.

Upon arriving at the Hard Rock one of the first chores for the scribe is to get credentials. Coming out the door from that task we ran into a big commotion and swirl of people in the plaza. Checking the faces revealed the source of all the excitement. There, surrounded by very attractive girls, smiling tourists and Boxing fans was Iron Mike. He and his crew were attempting to walk, like normal people, to their quarters in the arena to await the commencement of the fighting festivities. Of course Mike is not “normal people.”

He is a world famous fighting entertainer with a background pockmarked by a difficult childhood, a worse adolescence, family loss (the death of his mentor/coach) and, just for good measure, fell into the clutches of Don and Deserie. There, jockeying for position, were people who, under normal circumstances, would act in a perfectly calm manner, but they were acting like giddy rock star fans. It is not unusual at all for people to approach this writer and offer “anything” if we could arrange to take a picture of them just standing next to Mike or whoever. Our stock reply to that is, “OK, just promise to drop a twenty in the next Salvation Army bucket you come across, and we’ll see what we can do.”

We have been with many people who deal with this very well, and some who don’t. Candice Bergan, Charles Bronson, Woodie Strode, Sandy Dennis, and Henry Winkler just to mention a few, were gracious, friendly and a complete pleasure to meet. On the other hand Burt Reynolds, Gary Lockwood and Barbara Walters seemed aloof and unapproachable. We all have good days and bad. Perhaps we were just unlucky with the latter mentions. It gets so bad for some that they make orders of staff and others forbidding eye contact. This is not pointed out as a criticism, but as an example of the stress and strain of stardom. Then again, the endless attention of others goes with the territory.

If memory serves, Mike Tyson falls about in the middle when it comes to dealing with the public and media. A case in point would be the last five hours we spent in his company. He was generally friendly, accommodating, and well-mannered. He did very well with media, courteous male fans and pretty girls. He did less well when pushy media people, boxers he did not like, and autograph hounds got in his face. Everything larger than life stars do has a tendency to be blown out of proportion. Also, some people, with no lives, try to live through their heroes. And some can’t even separate stars as persons distinct from the roles they play.

In the movie “Cool Hand Luke” Paul Newman’s character becomes (IMO) a metaphor of Jesus Christ with the prison camp representing the world, the pit hell, and the world outside the camp equal to heaven. His fellow prisoners made of him a hero during his THREE escapes and tried, to the man’s eventual destruction, to live vicariously through his exploits. What will he (Mike Tyson, David Blaine, Robbie Kenievel) do next to fill our mundane lives with thrills, excitement and admiration? What might we cajole them to do? More than one daredevil has died trying to satisfy the public’s voracious demands for this or that testosterone display.

This author, in passing, and without malice, has previously compared Mike Tyson to King Kong…larger than life, admired, feared and beset from all sides by those who would love him, betray him and shoot him down from the highest symbol of man’s macho accomplishments: not the Empire State Building, but the shrine of mano-a-mano single combat. Tyson was born to the ring of destiny. When he stepped into it to congratulate Ibragimov, it was as if the scene was now complete. Yesterday a poster made the interesting observation that Mike, as he held Sultan’s arm aloft, had, in a way, come full circle and it was he (and not Don) who now held someone’s fist high in victory.

Yes he has a “marketable name”, but that will only go so far if he gets into the promotion business or any other for that matter. If he can use his memories of treatment by others as caveats with which to control his own future dealings, he will not only defeat their purpose to destroy him, but redeem his own image and find a new direction. He’s a relatively young guy and has a lot of life ahead if he shepherds his resources. Cynical insults by others will not help.

Many celebrities are a bit shy, and public appearances require that they shift, at least partially, into stage mode. Mike is a bit that way. Until he gets to know you a little, and depending on the circumstances of your introduction, he will open up and be himself. Stars often meet people who don’t have it together enough to realize that they are not instant friends with a celebrity just because they recognize the icon and are a fan. Just imagine how difficult it must be to have people you have never seen before, come up to you, all the friggn’ time as if you are a long lost friend…bummer. Celebrities have to deal with that every day. It can get pretty old.

Worst of all, some, who can’t quite place the face, will come up to new or rising stars and say, “Didn’t you used to be…?” as they snap their fingers trying to remember. We saw Ernest Borgnine respond to that once by wrinkling up his nose, shaking his head and growling out, “Naaaawh!” The guy bought it and, thankfully, wandered off mumbling, “Gee, I thought that was really him”, as Ernie winked at his friends. It was hilarious.

Considering all of this, not to mention well-known incidents in Mike’s life, he does pretty well. The author had a radio talk show at one time. The one adamantine demand with the program managers, and the syndicated stations, was that there would be an absolute minimum of pictures in newspaper or magazine promotions…none would be best. They violated the agreement, privacy was lost, and they had to get themselves another boy. Since then, diligent work on wrinkles and gray hair has reduced that problem almost completely.

Presently, Mike Tyson hasn’t done anything to hurt anyone outside the ring (some might say inside the ring either) and is making the rounds in a fairly low key (for him) and workmanlike manner. Clue: He’s no dummy! Just for openers, catch the way he’s holding his v-sign hand in the pic with McGirt. Our British buddies across the pond will have no problem picking up on that. If it’s good enough for Winston Churchill, it’s good enough for Mike…right guys?

Sociologists who have studied those who criticize and insult, have found that there is a strong tendency for those who hear such remarks to have a big negative response to the speaker rather than the target of his derision. So the next time you are tempted to bad-mouth another, it might end up as more of a reflection on you. Mike may be a loose cannon at times, but he’s our loose cannon and definitely not a boring dude. See you at the fights.

Article posted on 18.12.2005

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