Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Being Mike Tyson

by Guichard Cadet

Mike Tyson did not go to jail for raping Desiree Washington. He went to learn history, one to which he had not been exposed as a youth in the Brownsville – never ran never will – section of Brooklyn. In the late 1970’s Brownsville was a neighborhood defined by abandoned, burned-out buildings – the remnants of white-flight, middle class desertion and government apathy.

Tyson’s life is a cautionary tale of elements gained and lost when a black youth, without a black positive role model, is mentored and raised by a white person. Had Cus D’Amato been, let’s say, a scientist, Tyson could today be a leader in the sciences, business or the humanities. But D’Amato was a great teacher of Boxing, the sweet science. At one time the sport served as a sanctuary for Tyson who had moved to the Catskills Region of New York. D’Amato lifted Mike out of the concrete jungle, and inadvertently placed him in a smaller box.

Mike was groomed to be the people’s champ because he embodied the roughened sensibilities ingrained in society during the Reagan era. Fighting and unifying the Heavyweight division enabled him to live extravagantly and see the world, but he never understood his place in it.

Coming out of prison in 1995, Mike Tyson started speaking a different language. Mike verbalized of being a religious man; that was ignored because in America, it was universal for incarcerated black men to convert to Islam. He spoke about being of the masses, Mao Tse Tung, and a new philosophical bent. That became fodder for jokes.

Though he always had a certain way with words, his high-pitched voice did not harmonize with his chiseled build. No one ever really listens to Mike, except when he considers mutilating opponents or media members who agitate him.

The one thing Mike never openly addressed: race. The derogatory nicknames used, in the past, for whites and society in general were now passé. America since the 1990’s had become a political landmine were, in public, everyone had to be correct; and Blacks had to stop “blaming the man” for their problems.

Along with those socio-political forces, Mike had his personal reasons. D’Amato had been a godsend, in that he could imagine how much more difficult or shorter the road would have been without this guardian. Business dealings had bared what Chuck D. of Public Enemy reinforced in “Welcome to the TerrorDome” – every brother ain’t a brother.

But this past Saturday night, Tyson went from Iron Mike to becoming the major irony confronting people of color worldwide. He gave up fighting a white opponent, though he was ahead in points. Stating that he was too old for this, he validated the major socio-political stance of today’s youth. Fighting racism is a meaningless battle, especially when it is against an invisible opponent, or one who has no clue of your history.

A fair fight was no longer an option for a warrior who could never be the people’s champion, because like recent U.S. elections, the people’s vote really doesn’t count. Mike knew his next move would have been savagery because the frustration of doing something he no longer deemed meaningful. Circumstances had boxed Mike in, to the point where the experts often debate why people pay or find a way to see a Tyson fight. Is it a freak show or an accident waiting to happen?

The post-fight news conference is the reason. There, Tyson updates us on the steps he has taken to repair the damage done to his psyche, from the life he was born into, and not being accepted as the people’s champion. Mike contends missionary work as his next step in life, a setting in which he can contribute. His travels around the world have given insight to those who are truly impoverished.

Skip Bayless’ post-fight article addresses both cases, and goes as far to say that he envisions Mike returning to fight again. Bayless goes on to mock the return, pronouncing his preference that Mike fights a chimp, as if acknowledging the Darwinian devolution of Tyson’s boxing career.

Seeing Tyson fight again would not be a letdown. His would be the same as many who have left unfulfilling careers, only to return because their creditors have shackled them, labeling bills and taxes as their debt to society.

Metaphorically-speaking, Tyson is the crab that made it out of the barrel. His laughter has never been shown; only his pain, as demonstrated by the rage and lengthy metaphors he uses when trying to explain why he is stigmatized.

Being like this Mike, who has chosen to go back to Africa, is a template most cannot physically follow. Like Ali, the people’s last true champion, Tyson has stayed one step ahead of the carnage and articulated the day’s hot button issues. Now, it is only a question of time as to how long it will take for society, as a whole, to embrace him.


At 6:30 AM, Blogger Guichard Cadet said...

I see the slight similarities as far as the names, that is if your middle name is "tyson".

I would rather ghostwrite the autobiography than do a tell-all. To us non-boxers, Mike is still lethal.


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