David Remnick, now the editor of the New Yorker, once asked Muhammad Ali if Mike Tyson could have beaten him.
"Don't make me laugh," Ali said, pointing to his head. "Tyson don't have it. He don't have it."
Tyson, of course, is now preparing for his June 8 fight against Lennox Lewis, which I mention because (... I need a column idea. And by comparing Ali and Tyson in a column, you'll get the idea I know something about boxing ... ) this is supposed to be Tyson's last chance. He's getting older and his skills are eroding and people seem to watch him just to see a sideshow. And that doesn't get you interviewed by the New Yorker, which I mention so maybe you'll will think I'm smart and well-read. I actually subscribed to the New Yorker for six months and realized two things:
UIt has more commas, per sentence, than, any other, publication.
UI found it incredibly dull, which is OK because people only read the cartoons, anyway.
But back to Tyson. The once promising young pug has disintegrated into a comic figure who routinely appears in monologues on Conan O'Brien's show. Which is a tragedy, since (... OK, maybe not a tragedy. After all, he's making $16 million for the fight ...) he could have been one of the best fighters ever. Of course, he's the best-paid fighter ever -- he will probably make my yearly salary every 1/64 of a second -- but is that really what's important?
And even if it were a tragedy, how would I know? I've never been to one of Tyson's fights. I just played "Mike Tyson's Punchout" on Nintendo when I was a kid. I wasn't even alive when Ali retired, so it's not like I remember any great fights anyway.
You may wonder why I'm not mentioning Lewis in any of this. And the reason is that (... nobody cares about him ...) nobody cares about him.
Tyson once had the talent, the speed, the inner drive to be great. But instead of reviving boxing, he became the posterchild for everything wrong with the sport. Athletes are supposed to make their sports better. Ali did. Jim Brown did. But Tyson decided to (... buy a lot of cars, and spend a lot of money on court costs after beating up his girlfriends/wives ...) skimp on his training. And surround himself with criminals. People want to blame society for his problems. But he didn't share his glory when he was great, so now that he's a bum, he can keep that label for himself.
I have my pride. I have my 1/64th of a second salary. I don't have my New Yorker subscription. I canceled it because it had a bunch of really long stories detailing Mongolia's foreign relations with China over the past 600 years.
No role model
True, Tyson had a rough childhood and he didn't exactly have the best role models, but sooner or later you have to grow up and be a (... millionaire. And for only $54.95, you can help. Many of you may have to skimp on other things, like pro wrestling on Pay-Per-View, but it's a small sacrifice ...) man about things. He should realize he has a responsibility to his younger fans and he should act with dignity and grace.
(Just like everyone else in boxing.)
True, there may never be another Ali, but that doesn't mean we can't (... still mention him in our columns ...) admire him for what he brought to the sport. And to sportswriters.
He made time for us. We love that. Why else do you think I quote Warren Harding football coach Thom McDaniels so much? Because he returns phone calls. And if you're patient and ask the right questions, McDaniels will sometimes criticize the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Sportswriters love to write columns criticizing the OHSAA. Especially when we don't have anything better to write about. Or when we need an ending to a column that doesn't really have a point.
(Like this one.)
XJoe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.