by Eric Raskin
Mike Tyson wasn’t supposed to be here. And I’m not talking about the fact that he’s relatively peaceful, happy, and successful in 2013. I’m talking about the fact that he’s alive in 2013.
If you were in a celebrity death pool in 1991, in 1998, in 2004—anytime in the past 25 years, really—then Tyson was sure to be a top pick. It’s a morbid thought, to be sure, but Tyson was such a troubled soul for so long that the idea of him reaching middle age always seemed remote.
And yet here he is, alive in 2013 at age 46. Oh, and also relatively peaceful, happy, and successful.
There might not be a better feel-good story in all of sports than Mike Tyson, not just the Baddest Man on the Planet but at times one of the Worst Men on the Planet, adjusting to life after boxing and finding a place for himself.
Bernard Goldberg’s profile of Tyson on the March 19 episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel was the latest stop on the Mike Tyson Reinvention Tour, and it underscored the point that has gradually become apparent over the last couple of years: this reinvention is real. Tyson isn’t evolving in the name of rebranding. He’s evolving in the name of maturity.
We’ve seen and heard plenty about the new Tyson in recent months, as he’s worked every form of media hyping his one-man show, “The Undisputed Truth.” But just when you think you’ve seen one too many vignettes on him, along comes one that shows you a little something more, peels back one additional layer. Such was the case in the closing minutes of Tyson’s interview with Goldberg, when the former heavyweight champ became too emotional to speak after the conversation turned to his daughter, Exodus, who died in 2009 at age four in a freak accident.
There have always been numerous ways to define Mike Tyson. Youngest heavyweight champion. Convicted rapist. Tabloid sensation. Ear biter. We should add to the list “father who had to bury a child.” It’s as important a piece of his story as any other, an experience that has reshaped his life path.
We learned other things about Tyson on Real Sports, besides just the fact that he gets choked up frequently (and sounds like Don Corleone when he does). We learned that his wife, Kiki, wrote the script for his one-man show and guides him through every performance via earpiece. We learned that every penny Tyson makes off the show goes straight to the IRS, to whom Tyson owes some number of millions of dollars that his wife declined to specify. We learned, thanks to the magic of high-definition closeups, that Tyson is finally showing a little bit of gray in his moustache and his soul patch.
And Goldberg learned personally that Tyson is no dummy, that he knows what the word “thespian” means and even where it’s derived from.
Tyson has long been a deeper thinker than most would be assume, and he’s more recently developed the eloquence to relay some of those thoughts effectively. If you ask me, he’d make a great color analyst for boxing broadcasts. Now that the days of Tyson being a threat to spend all night cussing into the microphone are over, he’s a bigger threat to provide entertainment and insight like no else can. Certainly the audiences paying to see “The Undisputed Truth” feel that way.