"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 19 January 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Grand Slam


[confidential to jeff betram:
i think you overestimate the intention of the alt tags.
really, there are no more than an easter egg for those who can use their 
high-end poorly desined browser software.  ]

"People all over are crying for

a white heavyweight champion,

including blacks," Francois

Botha declared, shortly before a

strangely gracious Mike Tyson

sent him to Palookaville on

Saturday. Unfortunately, nobody

is masochistic enough to wish

publicly for a white champion,

and in any event, Botha, a

native of Witbank, South Africa,

and one-time IBC champion (he

lost the title when it was

revealed that somebody had

slipped steroids into his

biltong), is too gentle a giant

to fit the bill. Even for those

few moments on Saturday night

when his lummoxy punch-and-hold

strategy seemed to be subduing

Mike Tyson - or in announcer

Steve Albert's pungent phrase,

"smothering him in a mountain of

white flesh" - the

self-described "African

American" couldn't find any

support outside of his corner -

and even they seemed diffident.


Which shouldn't be surprising.

Who wants to see a guy talking

peace and reconciliation to have

a shot at the title? If nothing

else, Tyson's frustrating career

- the long, dry seasons of

chumpery he's made us endure and

maybe, most of all, his foray

into cannibalism - remind

everybody that boxing is the one

sport that doesn't even have a

make-believe golden age to look

back on. The official word on

this fight is that Kid Dynamite

was "rusty" and that the matchup

was a disappointment. But the

only thing this fight lacked was

the refereeing skills of Judge

Mills Lane, who ruled Tyson's

second ear-bite (though not the

first) illegal in 1997, and now

Gets It On with cockroach

terrorists and irate petsitters.

None of them, of course,

approach Tyson's magnetic

confidence in his own perdition.

"I expect the worst to happen to

me in life," he told Playboy a

few months before Saturday's

fight. "I expect people to fuck

me and treat me bad. That's just

what I expect.... I expect that

someday somebody, probably

black, will blow my fucking

brains out over some fucking

bullshit, that his fucking wife

or girlfriend might like me, and

I don't even know she exists."


[you got the voyeuristic part right, but it's also a place for me to rant about 
whatever i feel like spewing about.  problem is, i don't always have 
something to say.  so be it.  who really cares. ]

In the mouth of a more ordinary

simperer or less erratic

millionaire pugilist, this might

sound like mere self-pity. But

Tyson can turn all things into

cosmic despair, typified in his

suggestion that his critics

write a letter to God asking,

"Why did you bring this black

convict into the world?" Like

Chef Chin Kenichi, another

genius who takes no pleasure in

his skills, Tyson can lose on

points and still win the battle.

No jury would ever acquit him of

rape, misdemeanor assault, or

unsportsmanlike mastication, but

Tyson's overall case - that the

world is united in an effort to

send him to hell - has always

been rock solid. It's this

readiness to go to what he calls

"heaven, hell, wherever" that

has allowed Iron Mike to subvert

that moth-eaten boxing

cliché - the promising

career that goes awry - with a

career that is been both

promising and amiss in new and

innovative ways.


[ it's supposed to be banal, it's 
a counterpoint to the high-brow, intillectual suck columns.  hopefully a few 
people will enjoy hearing about someone/something/someplace they don't know.]

This brand of Calvinism stands

in beautiful contrast with the

willy-nillyness of the

proceedings, where prim

reporters talk with a straight

face about the "shame" the

two-time champion has brought to

his sport. Without Don King

pulling the strings, Tyson-Botha

was waged in a Sin City that now

strenuously tries to put a

family-friendly skin on its

vice-ridden viscera. Elsewhere

in the country, blandroids like

George W. Bush promote a

people-friendly political

system, and people talk about a

bipartisan (though, sadly, never

bi-curious) Congress as if it

were a good thing. The enforced

niceness Rudy Giuliani used to

craft his PG-rated version of

the world's nastiest city has

become a nationwide epidemic,

while pugilistic phrases like

"slam" and "take your best shot"

and "go the distance" get

circulated in inverse proportion

to anybody's willingness to draw

blood. Although professional

boxing still produces evil

geniuses like Prince Naseem

Hamed - the toxic and often

shockingly lazy featherweight

who is also a Tyson favorite -

it's hard to escape the sense

that in this new

nice-guys-finish-first ethos,

even the sweet science is going

soft in the heart as well as the



Slam Man, the most recent

boxing-related workout product

to hit the infomercial circuit,

looks like a cross between

Hannibal Lecter's traveling

suit, a limbless crash-test

dummy, and a Simon Says game. It

would seem to be an ideal

repository for the collective

rage of our society. But where

the faithful heavy bag, or even

the humble Dud-or-Stud carnival

punchout machine, allow the user

to put some foot-pounds of

pressure into their sparring,

Slam Man rewards precision

rather than power. The official

Start to Slam! video features

quick cuts of a fiery Sugar Ray

Leonard laying into Slam Man's

midsection. But my own

experience - while optimized for

my physical specifications and

desired workout goals - suggests

that either the middleweight

legend was pulling his punches

or the director cut away just

before Slam Man took a dive.

Unlike the Johnny Bench

Batter-Up! - a baseball-batting

trainer that bore the imprimatur

of a stalwart Cincinnati Red,

tormenting countless children in

the '70s - Slam Man doesn't

actually pull a Trevor Berbick

when you hit it (in the case of

Batter-Up!, the product's

tendency to fall over was

supposed to be a sign that you

didn't have a "level swing").

But even with my girlish

punching style, it was

disturbingly easy to make Slam

Man give ground. It's a perfect

late-'90s product - a boxing

trainer that can't take a punch.


In Slam, Marc Levin's enjoyable

but credibility-straining art-

house favorite, the hero is no

fighter, but Raymond, a

pencil-necked poet of the

projects whose verses about

leaving "shadows on the sun"

seem to have been inspired by

the best of Electric Ladyland.

But the central problems of the

movie - survival in a hard

world, suffering surreal

punishments (more than a year in

jail for possession of a bag of

weed), and faith in the absurd

honor of enduring the

unendurable - are oddly

Tysonian. The movie demands an

unlimited suspension of

disbelief. Raymond averts a

prison-yard riot with his phat

mad rhymes, brings peace among

the gangs, and seemingly decides

to endure a grossly unfair jail

sentence in order to become a

better man.


and really, how exciting IS anyone's life anyway?  maybe mine is just as pathetic as yours, by your own admission is?  
or maybe i'm making it all up.
at least i'm not publishing the gadfly-cam web page or something equally self 
indulgent.  ]

It's infectiously uplifting and

exactly the kind of thing that

makes you glad for the return of

Mike Tyson, even or especially

under the squalid circumstances

of a slaughter match with a

great white dope. No matter how

nice things get, at least

somebody out there knows

competition isn't about fitness

or personal growth or moral

victory, but about kicking

somebody's ass.

courtesy of Bartel D'Arcy