Mike Tyson, still insane

The former champ's latest comments about wanting to rape Desiree Washington prove only that he's still insane. Isn't it time we stopped listening to him?

Published May 30, 2003 10:44PM (EDT)

Mike Tyson says that while he didn't rape Desiree Washington in 1991, now that he's spent three years in prison for the crime and been branded a rapist, he wishes he had.

It's nice to see that Tyson has mellowed, cleaned up his act, that he's getting on with his life, putting it all together, the way he keeps saying he's going to do every time he's between bouts of outrageous behavior and trying to get a license for a bout in the ring.

He made his comments to Fox TV's Greta Van Susteren for a show broadcast Thursday night.

"No, I didn't rape that slimy [expletive]," wire reports of the interview quote him as saying. He called Washington, then an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant, "a lying, monstrous young lady" and said he hates her guts. "She put me in that state where now I really do want to rape her and her mama."

Yeah, let's not forget her mama.

It goes without saying that saying, "I'm so mad at her I want to rape her" doesn't go very far in convincing people that you're not a rapist.

What are we to do with Mike Tyson and his occasional outbursts of strange, violent commentary? Sometimes his comments can be dismissed as fight-game hype. In a postfight rant a few years ago meant to rile heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, whom Tyson was then trying to get a match with, he sent the champ the message that "I want to eat your children." Tyson later laughed off the line, saying he knew Lewis had no children. Of course, he also said he wanted to rip Lewis' heart out, but whatever. He got the fight, didn't he?

Then there was the press conference brawl prior to the Lewis match last year, which Tyson punctuated by screaming at a reporter who had yelled out, "Put him in a straitjacket."

"Fuck you, you bitch!" he yelled to the male reporter while making obscene gestures. "Come say that to my face. You're scared, you ho. Scared of a real man. I'll fuck you till you love me!" And so on.

It was pretty much par for the Tyson course.

What made Tyson interesting for a while was the possibility that he could return to the fighting form that had made him a spectacular champion in the '80s, when he became the youngest man ever to win the heavyweight title. His legal troubles, incarceration, lack of interest in proper training, and bizarre behavior in the ring -- most famously when he bit Evander Holyfield's ear -- had added up to a decade in which Tyson was just a shadow of his former self. But he was still only 35 when he climbed in against Lewis, and he claimed that he was ready to be the old Tyson again.

It turned out he really was the old Tyson, as in really old. Lewis, a classy but ordinary champ, mopped the canvas with his carcass, and the days of Mike Tyson, viable contender, even in the form of wishful thinking, were over.

So why does he keep getting his name in the papers? Why do we still listen when he tops his previous stupid statements with newer, stupider words?

Because he has become randomly famous. Tyson was being interviewed by Van Susteren for a show reviewing yet again the rape case against him and his 1992 trial. Why now? Why not? He is nothing more than an interchangeable part in the constantly rolling machine of cable TV.

Hours must be filled, another 24 of them every stinking day, and old trials fit the bill nicely. You have your inherent drama, your readily available video, your beginning, middle and end, and your steady supply of lawyers who love talking into cameras. Tyson is just another player on this stage, along with O.J. Simpson, Susan Smith, Mary Kay Letourneau, Ted Kaczynski, Louise Woodward, the Menendez brothers and legions of people you've never heard of except when Bill Kurtis is talking about them on "American Justice."

The problem for Tyson is that this isn't good enough for him. He still wants to be the "baddest man on the planet," and since he can no longer stake that claim with his fists, he does it with his mouth and his bravado. It's sad, like that old man who sits in his garage all day drinking and yelling at the kids who run across his lawn, threatening them with what he'll do to them if he ever catches them, which he won't.

That old man probably doesn't have access to the resources Tyson has access to, even as he reportedly deals with serious debt issues. It's amazing that year after year, millions after millions, mind-numbingly stupid act after act, Tyson never finds, or even looks for, that person who will give him some decent advice. Such as: Never speak in public again, get some help for your anger, turn your finances over to someone responsible.

Until he follows that advice, here's some for the rest of us: Stop listening to Mike Tyson. He has nothing new to say to us.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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