Monday, April 27, 2009


Mike Tyson is the most honest sports figure of the televised era.

Probably ever.

It may be a rather bold statement considering the brash personalities and controversial figures that we celebrate or continually admonish at a moment’s notice. Yet, it’s rare for these figures to have a chance to reflect on their own pitfalls to the public. In such a hypercritical sports media landscape (and I do have a minor role in this business), the subjects of our work only respond through typically canned, carefully planned and somewhat sanitized statements. More often than we want to admit, the clich├ęs are actually true, yet, out of fear of reprisal, they do not reveal the entire truth of what these men and women think and believe. Honestly, we don’t ask for them to be very forthcoming.

Mike apparently couldn’t have cared less about what we wanted.

Iron Mike was never short for words and the filter seemed non-existent throughout his public life. Yet, what the James Toback documentary did was allow for him to give his perspective on his rise and fall without having to mince words (though there were some things that I could have lived without, such as how he contracted a STD shortly before defeating the late Trevor Berbick for his first heavyweight crown).

The reviews, for the most part have been overwhelming positive, but the words that stuck out the most came from the New York Times (which are the quote of the day at the moment).

"Whether or not he deserves our sympathy is a fair question. It is easy, and not entirely unjustified, to look at Mr. Tyson, his left eye ringed by a Maori tattoo, his head shaved clean, and see a self-pitying, self-justifying man who squandered his talent and good fortune and caused much more hurt than his brutal profession required. He started out as a street criminal in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and was plucked from juvenile detention by Mr. D’Amato and his associates, who disciplined the young man’s natural volatility and turned him into a fighter.

"And a lot of people, even passionate boxing fans, might prefer to forget about Mr. Tyson rather than spend 90 minutes in his company. But “Tyson” is worth seeing even if you have no particular interest in the sport or the man."
Though this blog covers the sports culture beyond the matches/games themselves, media reviews – whether for movies, books or television shows – are intentionally not part of Scribe. This is because we all have differing tastes and perspectives that these offerings may not satisfy. Yet, in this rare instance, I encourage everyone to go see this movie.

However, before you cough up the cash to see the film, I must warn you that some of the patrons, if not all, are looking for the sideshow that became Mike Tyson rather than just hear the guy out. When I went to see the film on Saturday, it took a lot of energy to not hurl obscenities at the crowd for cracking one too many jokes about his transgressions. This warning isn’t to completely dismiss the fact that Tyson had those moments that make you laugh or cringe, but there were too many people who saw the movie as a comedy rather than a serious film. For all the lunacy that the former “Baddest Man on the Planet” put the public through, this film deserves more than a mere shrug or cackle.

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