Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Pigeons of Mike Tyson: A Lesson on Loyalty

There is a famed story about Mike Tyson waking up one day to find that his favorite pigeon, Julius, had died. He planned to use the crate as a stickball bat to honor the memory of his lost friend, but when he came back to retrieve it from the corner, the garbage man had already put it into the crusher. Tyson proceeded to knock the poor fellow senseless, describing the image of the man as "convulsing on the floor like an infantile retard." I always thought in another life that Mike Tyson was a poet.

I was telling my friend this story about Mike Tyson and how his favorite animal is the pigeon.

"Because they're scrappy?" she asked.

"No." I replied. "Because they're loyal.

No matter where pigeons go, no matter how far they venture, they always return to their coop. They always return to the one that cares for them. Sure, they come back because they know there is food, but the more important thing is that they return because it is a familiar place and there is always someone there to rely on.

We have a saying in boxing. I saw it once on a small sign when I was visiting the gyms of Costa Rica. It read: "Cuando yo gano, tengo mucho amigos. Cuando yo pierdo, estoy solo. Que lastima. (When I win, I have many friends. When I lose, I am alone. What a shame.) It is quite indicative of life. During the good times, everyone wants to be your friend. It is during those times when you're down that few stand by you. But those few that do, those are your true friends.

Mike Tyson won the WBC Heavyweight championship at 20 years old, making him the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing. At this time, he not only held the infamous reputation of being "the baddest man on the planet", but he had hundreds of millions of dollars to accompany that moniker. Money, power, women, all these came served on a platter for Tyson, and at 20 years old, you don't really know what's going on. You bask in the pleasantries of life as if there are no consequences. Only later do you find what happens when you overindulge.

The story of Mike Tyson is a sad one. His rise to the top was quick, his downfall even quicker. As he slowly began to lose his focus, his timing, his speed, his desire all began to erode with each fight. After a 3yr stint in prison and a dwindled passion to fight, Mike Tyson became a shell of the fighter he once was. Many say he had the shortest prime of any heavyweight champion, but goddamn, what a prime it was.

It is said that in his entire career, he made well over 200 million dollars and now he is reduced to being featured in moderate paying infomercials and cameos in Hollywood flicks. The culprit was clearly a poor management of money, but perhaps the even guiltier party were the many leeches surrounding him during his glory days, those that whispered false words of support and empty promises to his adolescent ears.

The media never left him alone. Even after tragedy struck and he lost his baby girl in a freak treadmill accident, one tabloid reporter would not stop hounding his family while shoving cameras in their faces. Tyson ended up punching the guy because they simply grew tired of the constant media exposure. People just need to be left alone sometimes.

But after all these years, I think Mike Tyson has finally found peace. If there is anyone in the world who understands the multifaceted behavior of humans, it is him. And after all that he's been through, he always returns to his pigeons. He says it is because they are loyal, they always return to the coop, they return to their friend. They cannot choose this behavior. It is in their nature.

Humans, on the other hand, have a choice in how to behave. We are the only organisms on the planet with free will and the option to choose. We are influenced by society, by the things we are told to desire, and somehow these empty objects of superficiality become more valuable than things like friendship, things like loyalty.

Today, Tyson says he has few friends. From what he has learned, the human being is a species hard to trust. He prefers staying in the coop, attending to his pigeons. I can't say that I blame him.