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Others Also Bear Blame for Tyson's Behavior

June 06, 2002|EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON

When Mike Tyson left the airport in Memphis, Tenn., last weekend for his scheduled fight this Saturday with heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, a pack of reporters eagerly followed him. Local TV stations aired continuous updates on his doings, even when there was nothing to report, since Tyson seemed determined not to say or do anything to jeopardize the staging of what is expected to be one of boxing's biggest-grossing fights.

Nobody shadowed Lewis. Tyson is the show's top attraction. There's always the expectation that he may bite, kick or explode in an expletive-laced rage.

If that happens, the hordes of sports fans, writers and boxing officials who have screamed for his head will again engage in the ritual orgy of Tyson-bashing.

But Tyson won't be the only one to blame for that behavior. Others must also shoulder some responsibility. His history as a street thug, bully, lecher and convicted rapist is well known. After his release from prison, many boxing promoters and corporate media owners openly played on Tyson's bad-boy image. They greedily hoped that this would swell the gate and bring colossal paydays back to the dying sport of boxing. They were right.

Tyson--pumped up by sports fans, admirers, the media and the money crowd as boxing's primal-force gladiator--took full advantage. He believed he was "Iron Mike," a man above the law who could do anything and get away with it. He almost did.

The frightening thing is that in an era when the media routinely turn the thug behavior of some athletes into fortune and ratings, Tyson's stock will soar even higher if he whips Lewis. Many who clamored for his blood will clamor for tickets to see him bludgeon someone inside--or just as likely outside--the ring. If Tyson is a monster, he's our monster.

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Excerpted from Earl Ofari Hutchinson's column.

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