Friday, June 22, 2012

Iron Mike Tyson on Broadway

“This is…what [I] decided to do after I gave up using drugs and being a pig and stuff…”  

That’s Mike Tyson speaking to Ann Curry on the “Today Show” about his upcoming collaboration with Spike Lee.  He’s going to do a one-man show on Broadway.  That’s right.  Limited engagement.  Six nights only with a metaphorically naked Tyson.   

It’s the new Mike.  The improved Mike.  You have to love a guy who gives up being a pig.  Not to mention drugs and stuff.  Don’t you? 

While we all have room to grow, Iron Mike’s margin for improvement dwarfs that of the average schmo.  God love him for embarking upon a plan of self-improvement. It must be staggering.  He didn’t break it down into short-term, long-term, personal or professional goals.  “Today” only has a two-hour timeslot.  But apparently it’s a general overhaul.   

I’d love to see his notes on the brainstorm.  “Let’s see,” he must have said to himself, licking the tip of his pencil, “where to start?”  The “stuff” category offers the greatest range of opportunity.  No more wet towels on the furniture, for sure. 

Mike says he’s a vegan now.  He won’t eat anything with a face.  Birds, fish, insects and mammals across the globe exhaled in relief at the news.  Too late for Evander Holyfield, of course, but it’s a step on the personal growth highway. 

One wonders, after such a prolonged period of porcine existence, what triggered the change?  Did Mr. Tyson have an epiphany?  Was there a crystalizing experience?  A flash of insight or inspiration?  Well, yes.  There was such an event for Mike.  During his interview with our cultured and genteel Ms. Curry, Tyson revealed the moment he realized he wanted to live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle: 

"I just threw up the white flag," he said.  "There was too many prison cells, too many jails, too many lawsuits, too many bankruptcies, too many women, too many venereal diseases, too many everything.”  

OK, stop.  We get it.  Ann has leaned away on her stool, clutching her notepad.  No need to go into greater detail, is there?  But it seems there was a need.  Tyson pressed on, “I got tired.  I really got tired of, you know, like every time a prostitute –- I would head back from a trip -- I had to sleep with her.  So I just said, 'I'm going to live a different life.'” 

Not unlike others who’ve turned themselves around, right?  (I’m searching for a comparable example here.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Anyone who overcame those odds, that background, that ingrained behavior?)  

But my mom used to tell me, the time to make up your mind about people is never. 

Is it too late for Mike Tyson?  Can he redeem himself after decades of decadence?  Were there too many prisons and prostitutes for us?  Does his prison time, paying his debt, satisfy our need for justice after such heinous crimes?  Does bankruptcy on the grandest scale, losing $350million, truly wipe the books clean? 

Are we willing to let him start again?  Could he ever become a kinder, gentler Mike Tyson?  More than that, can he become a successful song and dance man? 

If you saw him in “The Hangover II” you already know he can’t sing, and dancing in the ring does not equate.  But there was that one thing - he seemed willing to laugh at himself.  I don’t think the old Mike would have done that. 

As for Tyson’s Broadway debut, which will feature Iron Mike offering a personal look into the highs and lows of his career, including his addiction to drugs, alcohol and women, Spike Lee says, “What Mike’s going to do is [display] the same courage he displayed in the ring.  I think [it takes] just as much courage to go on stage [and] bare your soul to the audience.”  

If you’ve been a pig the first step in recovery is taking responsibility for the sty. 

“I have to be careful,” said Tyson, “because I can’t stay on some subjects for a long time.  I can’t stay … for a long time because I might cry, something might happen,”  

What will happen, if he pulls it off, will be an object lesson in redemption.