Mike Tyson is a fascinating character. He's very nearly the last gasp of the heavyweight champions when we still cared about such things. (Evander Holyfield has a better claim to being the true last gasp.) Everyone knows his name, and he was an incredibly talented fighter that has left an absolutely crazy trail in his wake.
The span of his career is mindblowing. He has served so many roles for our culture that it's incredible
- A rags-to-riches heavyweight champion
- A convicted rapist
- A rehabilitated boxer
- An ear-biting lunatic
- A washed-up has-been
- A bankrupted victim of Don King's horrible embezzlement
- A shiftless addict
- A scene-stealing cameo artist
That's much more depth than almost any sports star gets a chance to attain, and much more varied than any would wish for. He now lives in a strange zone of Popular Figure Emeritus, rewarded for his career by playing himself in The Hangover and its sequels. He lends his name to the movies, seemingly in full acknowledgement that the joke is, at least in part, on him. And this, more than anything else, seems to have reignited our love affair with Tyson.
Is it any wonder that an autobiographical tell-all with Spike Lee makes for compelling watching? Tyson is adroit with a word, and still possesses a physicality that he uses a few times on stage to great effect. Of course, I can't help but wonder if this is just another Tyson high, and if there's one of his consistent falls to come later. But, at least for now, he lives in the happy part of narrative, as having overcome adversity to carve out a niche for himself.