Game Recognizes Game: Mike Tyson’s Inner Fight

Mike Tyson lives in solitary confinement.

That dank, desolate place where the heart and soul seek to escape when all other rhyme and reason ceases to run free.

It’s been 14 years now since a then-28-year-old Tyson was paroled from the Indiana Youth Center after serving part of a 10-year bid born of a rape conviction. And yet, as he sat through his epiphany with Oprah this week, it seemed clear his spirit still wrestles with a sentence so stern and griping he readily admits to having never expected to see so much as his 40th birthday.

“I’ve lived a wild and strange life,” the former champ and one-man star of the brutally honest, recently released documentary Tyson said during the critically-acclaimed film. “I’ve used drugs; I’ve had physical altercations with dangerous people; I’ve slept with guys’ wives, they wanted to kill me. I never thought I’d live to this age. It’s just a miracle.”

Throughout the Oprah gabfest and the film itself, much of that imagery unfolds in the vividly uneven tones one might expect from a character who spent much of his youth in and out of detention centers and foster homes, eventually becoming one of the globe’s most celebrated sports stars.

But at what cost did the Tyson legacy come? Tyson is a sobering portrait of the fast life and times of one of the sports’ most ordained and gifted, yet fundamentally flawed men. In an even broader context, it touches the surface of just how one can perhaps come to have too much too soon and speaks to the undeniable burden of living up to all the newfound fame and baggage that generally begets.

In the case of Tyson himself, at least a measure of that abnormality seems born of his self-professed “baddest man on the planet” moniker. Clearly, that title grew to become a distinction for which his altar-ego knew no boundaries, billowing to the point where it clouded not only his assessment of himself as a fighter, but as a man, as well.

How else can you explain the hubris that allows one to blow through some $300 million in less than a decade? Or even his constant run-in with the law or wayward ways with so many women? Yet in the riddle that is Tyson, the now 42-year-old, heavily indebted, one-time legend comes across as being as much about heart as he is defiance.

As he sat there with Oprah, rhapsodizing about just how weary he has grown of the tiring act of failure, no one could be certain where Iron Mike goes from here. Let’s hope it’s a step closer toward freedom. –Glenn Minnis