Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Last night I wandered down to Union Square to see the new documentary “Tyson”. Perhaps it was the light rain or the growing darkness, but my mood was perfect for a dark biographical piece- and I recommend it.

For those of us who were college students twenty years or so ago, Mike Tyson was front and center of our sports universe. He was the last boxer to really command true national and international attention- not Ali, but legitimately aspiring to his celebrity.

I am a fan of the fight game- and Tyson was a big part of drawing me to the sport. Now, he is sort of a sad joke- and one can forget the depths of his popularity in the late 1980s.

In a sport that has always been afflicted by horrid race issues, Tyson transcended such parochialism. He had a wild charisma. He crossed over- popular with the white fight fan. Tyson had a tangible public respect for his Italian trainer Cus D’Amato. He spoke so guilelessly, so knowledgably, about his heavyweight predecessors. Without a trace of contrivance he would go from Ali and Joe Louis to Gene Tunney and Marciano. He was like-able and sell-able- big smile and public respect out of the ring, an agent of terror in the ring. Obviously it all went wrong.

The movie will anger some- only Mike speaks, so only Mike’s side gets out. Short parts are boring, those of us who are familiar with Mike’s biography will bore during the parts of the movie necessary to backfill in Mike’s life story.

But Mike unfiltered, while perhaps unfair, is not uninteresting. Tyson is no dope (his brother is a physician assistant in the trauma center of the University of Southern California Medical Center). He never lacked for self-introspection- see his famous in ring interview after the Kevin McBride debacle about lacking "the fighting guts or the heart anymore."

In the film, he is a middle-aged man, surrounded by children, sobered up (for now), out of money- sort of, well, sane. Or saner than what passed for his life a decade ago. His reflections aren’t without interest or merit- admittedly more the former though. There is a sense of voyeurism rather than self-improvement in observing all things Tyson.

He seems “better”. He is never going to be a typical American- but there might be a second act for Mike Tyson yet.