The astonishing discipline and drive Tyson once put into “the stern business of pugilism,” to quote the boxer Jack Johnson, is now being channeled into the business of leading an ordinary, even humdrum existence. It is impossible not to wonder whether this effort can be sustained indefinitely, whether you can reshape the contours of a personality by a sheer act of will, but there is no doubt that Tyson has committed himself to a wholesale renovation.
A giant change from a few years ago:
Toback is disarmingly honest about why Tyson makes such a great subject. “The movie is like the aftermath of an earthquake. It’s Mike standing there amid the rubble and wondering why he has survived. Ultimately, what I feel comes through is a struggle to justify his continuing existence because the highlights of his life are gone. Usually tragedy ends in death, but here’s a tragic figure who has survived. And now that I’m here, what do I do?”
Apparently, continue to watch pigeons while we continue to watch him:
Tyson was the dominant champion of our childhoods, the hero who evoked terror in our parents, the one athlete who begged the question: how can an invincible man be so complicated? And after it began to all unravel in that bout in Japan (here’s a testament to Tyson’s wild popularity at the time—even the who beat him got his own video game), he became the enduring and incalculably tragic figure of our young adulthoods. Whenever he shows up on television, whenever some talking head or talk show radio host dismisses him as a “nutjob” or a “madman,” I experience a spike of emotion that far exceeds the appropriate limits of what a sports figure should inspire in a grown man.