By Ivan G. Goldman
Mike Tyson has to stop living his life out loud. He needs to learn to keep some things private. Unfortunately, he’s been making a living lately by showing himself up close and personal. That won’t give him the salvation he seeks.
Last week he told Matt Lauer of The Today Show: “When I start drinking and I relapse, I think of dying. When I’m in a real dark mood, I think of dying. And I don’t want to be around no more. I won’t survive unless I get help.”
Professional gossip-mongers are the last people on earth to solicit for relief from human suffering. If Mike were choking on a piece of meat, forget about the Heinlich maneuver, these guys would whip out smart phones and start getting footage. Yippie, the death of Mike Tyson, exclusive in living color.
Tyson has an upcoming series on Fox Sports 1 called Being: Mike Tyson and a forthcoming HBO special, entitled Undisputed Truth, which is based on his one-man play, all drawn from his personal struggles. This stuff has helped him financially, but it should stop. Mike can make money without letting everyone in on his secrets.
Lots of fight fans really love this kid from the gutter who became heavyweight champ at age 21, but never learned how to live a day-to-day life. His problem these days is that he’s too darn polite. When reporters ask him personal questions, he actually answers them. Believe me, he doesn’t have to. I’ve been in this business for decades, and I can tell you that celebrities who divulge their personal business to the world are foolish. When you’re in trouble, the world won’t help, but friends will.
We live in a world of reality TV, when celebrities and non-celebrities peddle their privacy to the public. But there’s no law that says you have to participate in these tasteless practices.
Tyson could learn a few things from celebrities like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Bob Dylan. These guys don’t get near reporters. And when they do, they refuse to answer personal questions. Dave Letterman once had DeNiro on for a rare personal appearance to plug a movie, and afterward Letterman complained he was the worst guest ever. All he did was look at his watch. DeNiro wants to be the worst guest ever. He has no interest in sharing his life with the world. Those three guys I named? Most of the time the news media don’t even know whether they’re married.
Anyone who’s covered athletes from a number of sports will tell you that fighters are the best. They tend to be nice guys who leave all their aggression in the ring. Tyson used to be one of the exceptions. He was a bully and a jerk, but with time, he mellowed. We started to see the kind of Tyson that he might have been had he not been a child thrown onto the streets of Brooklyn like a dog. His chief trainer and benefactor Cus D’Amato brought out his talent, but never chased off the demons. When D’Amato died, Iron Mike Tyson, scourge of the heavyweight division, was a partially formed human with only glancing knowledge of the difference between right and wrong.
He seemed to think that opening himself up to the public was expected of him and never asked why. That explains why he said yes to Barbara Walters when she asked for an interview while his marriage was breaking apart. He sat there helpless as Robin Givens told everyone how awful it is to live with him. And Tyson never learned from that mistake. He keeps making it over and over again.
Fight fans would love to hear Mike discuss his fights. He’s been in some of the greatest of the century. But his bouts with substance abuse won’t be won through media interviews. I know lots of people who have been helped by Alcoholics Anonymous. Mike has tried it, but he shouldn’t give up. There is professional help and medication for these troubles.
Lauer glommed onto Tyson after he announced (at a press conference at a fight venue in upstate New York): “I’m on the verge of dying because I’m a vicious alcoholic. I haven’t drank or took drugs in six days, and for me that’s a miracle. I’ve been lying to everybody else that think I was sober, but I’m not.”
Admitting this stuff is great. It’s the first stop toward deliverance, but not everybody needs to know. That’s why AA is anonymous. Sure, the public is interested. But the public is also interested in seeing train wrecks.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.