The Iron age!
“Iron” Mike Tyson wants to reignite his boxing career… IRON. MIKE. TYSON. “Kid dynamite”, “the baddest man on the planet.”
The youngest man to become heavyweight champion and the first man to be the unified world heavyweight champion boldly declared, “I’m Back!”
With those 2 words the sports world exploded with excitement, for good reason. Tyson was not just a boxing phenom but a cultural one. His ruthless aggression in the ring was matched by his “Baddest man on the planet” persona out of it. This shocking declaration was accompanied by an equally shocking video, Tyson going ballistic on the mitts. The ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex lineal heavyweight champion was hitting the mitts with what appeared to be the same speed and power he once wielded some 33 years ago…
After the initial excitement, reality sunk in. He’s old… very old! To say he is past his prime is an understatement as most people think his prime was in 1988 when he beat Michael Spinks.
So, what to make of this revelation?
Most media talking heads think this is a bad idea for good reason… He is old! Very, very old! I know I am sounding like an ageist, but professional sports are a young person’s game, especially fighting. The broken men that are left at the end of boxing careers is beyond tragic. These media pundits point to the tragic example of these former fighters and say, “Don’t do it Mike!” They are, obviously, 100% right! It is stupid and dangerous.
My head agrees, my heart… well, the heart wants what the heart wants
This week I had an interesting chat with a client about why sports stars should/shouldn’t be called heroes, my belief is that it depends. However, I genuinely believe that some athletes deserve that moniker. You may assume I am referring to athletes that take heroic political stances like Muhammad Ali, or who are philanthropists like Manny Pacquiao, or the ones negotiate cease fires in civil wars like Didier Drogba, these men are obvious heroes. However, I even believe athletes that purely excel at their sport are also heroes.
Obviously, they are not as heroic as first responders etc or even the above-mentioned examples, but they are still in fact heroes.
When athletes like Tyson, Michael Jordon and Rodger Federer excel at their sports, they embody the idea that you as an individual have the power within yourself to overcome any obstacle, to transcend what you thought was possible. They teach us, implicitly and explicitly, that we too can be a hero if we sacrifice enough.
Look, I understand… many of you will say I’m giving WAY too much credit to sports and these sport stars. You think, with good reason, that this is stupid hyperbole. If I am honest, you are probably right!
BUT, before I would concede this argument I would like to ask, if I’m wrong, why else would 2 BILLION people (majority being the poorest in the world) watch the FIFA world cup final? Why is it that Muhammad Ali became the most recognised person that has ever lived? Why is it that heroes like first responders etc routinely cry when they meet their sporting heroes? The simplistic “people just want distractions” or some cliché about celebrity and idolisation will/does not suffice as an answer!
My contention is that these athletes become exemplars of what we want to believe is possible. That is why my heart wants Tyson to fight, my heart wants to see what is possible. I want to be inspired. My head knows that he can’t make anything of this comeback…
But then again, wasn’t George Foreman 46 when he regained the heavyweight title?
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” Joseph Campbell