I once saw Mike Tyson in an airport. I always thought boxers would be huge, you know, six feet four inches, all brawn and sinew. Perhaps because I was expecting something completely unlike Tyson did it take a few seconds to recognize who and what I was looking at. He is about five feet eight inches tall, and as wide as a doorway. His neck was fat as a basketball. Looking at him, I felt both that weird satellite uplink pause of oh, wow, a celebrity, and also oh my God, he is a monster.
He was surrounded by people. His entourage was pushing people out of the way. He looked like the consummate boxing celebrity, smiling and smirking, walking through the people who were asking for his autograph.
The moment passed but the impression was lasting. Years went by and I heard stories about him biting off somebody’s ear and I thought of course he did; he’s a wild animal. Anytime you go in the ring with him, you’re basically fighting an animal without any regard for human life. He was mean, like a dog trained to attack anything and anyone.
Later still I heard he lost some money, then made it again. Went to prison for rape. Had a giant tribal looking tattoo inked over his already ugly face. He converted to Islam. He lost all his money again. And I heard he raised pigeons.
Reluctantly I started to think that was kind of cool. I love pigeons; I imagine a time when human beings called them doves, and welcomed them into our gardens. I know their sweetness and their soothing songs. So it appealed to me to think of Mike Tyson loving the tiny fluttery creatures. Did they calm him? Is he calmed down at all?
Somehow, his enjoyment of the doves makes him seem reformed.
Tyson doesn’t seem very smart and I don’t think those blows to the head helped matters. He doesn’t seem to have any self-awareness.
But there is something about him that seems open to life. He doesn’t seem to care that he’s broke, or that he’s no longer anywhere close to the best boxer in the world. I am not talking just about the stubborn will to survive, which most people have innately. I mean, he seems to have the desire to seek out new things.
I can’t bring myself to like him, even in the most remote sense. But as long as he has his pigeons, I think we’re all safe from him.