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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Iron Mike deserves a little sympathy

My apologies to Iron Mike. Last year, I wrote a column inspired by the rumor that a reality TV show about the daily life of Mike Tyson was in the works. Mockingly, I said that “The Mike Tyson Show” could be the savior of television-the greatest show on TV.

Selfishly, I laughed at the thought of watching him make an absolute fool of himself for 30 minutes every week while dozens of millions of people sat in the comfort of their nice, middle-class homes and felt better about themselves.

I imagined all the priceless, inevitably classic sound bites that would come out of such a show. I thought about that absurd lisp of his and how funny it made him look. I reveled at the idea of Tyson looking oblivious as the show’s producers did all they could to make him look as stupid as possible. Because, of course, that makes good TV, right?

I couldn’t wait. Especially for a sports fan, was there anything better than a weekly dose of unintentional comedy, Mike Tyson-style? I sure didn’t think so.

I was proud of that column-for a few days, at least. I used his own words to make fun of him, to perpetuate the consensus opinion of everyone’s favorite rapist, Iron Mike, the ultimate “dumb jock.”

What a cherry-picker I was. I went for the easy target, the guaranteed laugh. And I got it. We all got another good chuckle at Iron Mike’s expense.

You’re so stupid, Mike. You’re so ignorant and dumb and childish. You’re such a monster. The way you talk and those ridiculous things you say…oh Mike, you make us all laugh so.

As I was typing that column, that’s pretty much what I was thinking. Mike Tyson was nothing more than an amusement to me.

And therein lies the problem-I just didn’t realize it until sometime later. Mike Tyson does not deserve the kind of ridicule and contempt and disrespect that we have shown him.

He’s quite an odd character, no doubt. But he’s a real character, three dimensions and all. Yet we-and by that I mean both we the people and we the media-have taken it upon ourselves to transform him into nothing more than a cartoon. The mindless, muscled buffoon.

We’ve turned him into…well, we’ve turned him into the Mike Tyson that we all know today.

We’d rather he continue to be that cartoon, because it’s much easier for people if they don’t think of him as human.

But that cartoon isn’t the real Mike Tyson. He’s much more.

It hit me a while after the column ran that maybe it was wrong to take such cheap shots at anyone.

My thoughts began to change because of columnist Bill Simmons.

A few months ago, Simmons wrote a brilliant piece about his face-to-face meeting with Tyson, and my thoughts about Tyson immediately began to change.

Simmons wrote that Tyson spends his days on his apartment rooftop in Harlem, feeding and playing with his pigeons for upward of 12 hours a day, up until the early, early hours of the next morning.

Simmons wrote of Tyson’s inherent kindness and generosity, that he brings gifts whenever he’s meeting someone new.

Close friends and acquaintances revealed that the Tyson seen in the spotlight and the Tyson seen elsewhere couldn’t be more different. He’s shy, he’s warm, he’s witty…and all he wants to do is to “find peace” up on that rooftops with his pigeons.

It was the best and most touching thing I’d read in a long time. I can’t even really explain it.

I’ve been thinking about Mike Tyson-the person, not the celebrity-ever since. It’s simply not fair what we’ve done to him. This is a guy who, based on his behavior, is almost certain to have deep psychological problems (and I ain’t talkin’ about ADD).

He’s been in the spotlight since he was nothing more than a kid, and we’ve been judging his every move for 20 years. People threw gobs of money at him when he hit the big time, while other people proceeded to cheat him out of it.

His poor childhood has been well-documented.

“All of these people who are heroes, these guys who have been lily-white and clean all their lives, if they went through what I went through, they would commit suicide,” Tyson said. “I’ve lived places they can’t defecate in.”

When he went to prison, he couldn’t read or write. When he came out, his boxing skills had diminished-but we didn’t care. We just turned him into a sideshow, and he’s been playing that part ever since, like the bearded lady or the human cannonball.

We don’t care that he’s no longer a great boxer-we just want him for the entertainment value. All he is to us anymore is a sideshow.

Ridiculously enough, we now turn everything he does into an event. Honestly, why should we care about a stupid facial tattoo? Because in many minds, he exists only for our amusement…right?

At this point, it looks like the deal for “The Mike Tyson Show” has fallen through, and thank goodness. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with making fun of the guy. But we the media have never met a dead horse we couldn’t beat to a pulp.

The spectacle of Mike Tyson has had its run and should be put to bed. For years, he’s been humiliated in front of the entire world, and it’s safe to say he may not fully realize just how much of a joke he has become. His life doesn’t deserve to be made a mockery. And for that, I’m personally sorry.

You don’t have to like the guy-I don’t really like him myself. But what we should be able to do, at the very least, is show him compassion, not contempt. Pity, not condescension. And above all, just a little bit of respect for someone we don’t understand.

I’m not saying we should treat him like a hero. He’s not a hero. I’m saying let’s just leave him alone.

“I’m the most irresponsible person in the world,” Tyson once said. “The reason I’m like that is because, at 21, you all gave me $50 or $100 million, and I didn’t know what to do. I’m from the ghetto. I don’t know how to act. One day I’m in a dope house robbing somebody. The next thing I know, ‘You’re the heavyweight champion of the world.’ Who am I? What am I? I don’t even know who I am. I’m just a dumb child. I’m being abused. I’m being robbed by lawyers. I think I have more money than I do. I’m just a dumb pugnacious fool. I’m just a fool who thinks I’m someone. And you tell me I should be responsible? You have no idea what it’s like to be myself, no idea what it’s like. I’m not interested in being humiliated anymore.”

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