Mike Tyson invested his time into boxing. I imagine that the intelligent nuances of boxing were perfect to occupy Tyson’s troubled mind as a youth. Tyson’s father left when he was two, and his mother died when he was only 16. Anyone can guess the trouble available to Tyson under these circumstances. But although the streets took him under, like most, he had an opportunity to escape.
Many in Tyson’s position would not have taken to the positive opportunity afforded him by his trainer Cus D’Amato, who after Tyson’s mother passed, took him in, and instead would have strengthened their relationship with the streets. The difference between success and failure in those situations is very simple: heart. Mike Tyson had the heart to open up to someone, and someone had the sensibility to recognize the potential of his heart.
Combine heart with talent, and more often than not, you end up with someone moving towards something of a special life. Obviously, everyone will not rise to the heights of Mike Tyson, but the context clues tell me that the man simply has a special heart; perhaps looking for the love he never had in his youth.
Most people only saw the raw nature of Tyson’s talent during his crushing wins of the 80s and 90s. Muhammad Ali danced and dazzled as a heavyweight champion long before Tyson, spouting flirty poems to seduce the world into amazement. Tyson dazzled by providing the silent savagery that people are –unfortunately-- drawn to. The mid to late 80s was a tough time in Southern California where I grew up, and Tyson was the embodiment of the tough nature that young men there, and obviously around the World, felt they wanted to and needed to project – “Don’t get Mike Tyson’ed!” we might say in those days.
If Jesus can catch a beat down then none of us are immune to “catching a bad one.” There was your standard salivating anxiety to see Tyson on February 11, 1990, just before he stepped into the ring to knock Buster Douglas into Pluto’s orbit. But even once Tyson dropped to the canvas and crawled around searching for his mouthpiece, none of my friends and I seemed to really believe that he had just lost. To this day the moment was as surreal as I’ve ever seen in sports. I’ve always been pretty good about keeping sports into perspective, but there we sat on the steps of my buddy’s apartment, staring at the ground, and dare I say, almost feeling on the verge of tears. What in the World just happened? Was that really possible? Mike Tyson got Mike Tyson’ed?
As life goes by we all become careful witnesses to the rise and fall of those held in high esteem. It happens in many ways, but usually their fall comes as a result of a combination of their own self-destructive behavior, and some other person seeking to bring them down. In Tyson’s case, his big heart, combined with his incomparable position, and most importantly his lack of education, led to an overall life beatdown of epic proportions. The few people who cared for him withered away consistently, in rhythmic fashion, during each phase of his early life. And so the balance of life says that the fella known as Iron Mike will be exposed for his tender heart and lack of protection, whether protection by a person or through education.
In my opinion, the life of Mike Tyson should be discussed in collegiate type classes. His life most certainly should be examined when discussing the development of young urban athletes. Too often we see young athletes taken advantage of by their own ignorance and the vicious lures of others: Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, Dennis Rodman, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Vick, and the list goes on for miles with the names of those who didn’t make it nearly as far as these examples. Oddly, each of those names mentioned represents a person who many would consider has a big heart. To quote a friend, “The World can make us into monsters, congratulations to those who survive.”
Every young athlete should study Mike Tyson; and Mike Tyson should be applauded for weathering the onslaught life has laid upon him, which includes the death of his four-year-old daughter in May of this year. There’s nothing wrong with having a big heart, and there’s everything right with developing your talents, but education saves.