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Friday, May 30
Iron Mike can't even spawn disgust well any more

By Ray Ratto
Special to

Mike Tyson used to be much better at making us ashamed for our interest in him.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson's ability to inspire hatred is even in its declining stages.

Biting Evander Holyfield ... twice.

Biting Lennox Lewis ... in a news conference.

Offering to stomp the testicles of one interviewer's son, and suggesting that another have sex with him in exchange for the interview.

Advocating child cannibalism.

Holding up his cuffed wrists as he is led to his arraignment on the rape charge he so cavalierly wants to reprise

Yeah, he could do it all, and occasionally knock people out, too. It was quite a career.

But he has finally hit the Dennis Rodman Wall. He has nothing verbal left to shock us with. He sought out the only outlet this side of "The Food Network'' that doesn't do boxing to tell us that he didn't rape Desiree Washington, that she was asking for it anyway, that other people do it all the time and don't get in trouble, and if he had the chance, he'd like to rape her, and her mother, too.

That's one denial, two indirect admissions, and a stated intention to do it again with other members of her family. It's hard to see how much harder he could have tried to make America stand up and notice him again.

But the reaction from the nation? Crickets. Chirping birds. Tumbleweeds blowing down an empty street.

In other words, having lost his boxing career, he settled back into his other pastime ... seeing America drop its collective jaw in outrage and amazement. He even chose a most prodigious jaw in the news business, Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren, to share his newly developed theories on the benefits of retributional sexual assault.

And the sound from the nation? Peaceful slumber. A longneck being opened in the back yard. The sound of one remote seeking out that Law & Order: CI re-run.

So now what does our guy Mike do? He gives -- by any measure -- his most comprehensively offensive interview ever, and now he's standing there wondering why America looked for something more interesting to do.

He can't fight again, because that vein has been mined out. He can fight both Klitschko brothers at the same time, with the winner getting Tonya Harding, but the boxing world has moved on.

So what's he got left for our more sensitive sides? A tattoo of Osama bin Laden across his latissimus dorsi? Converting to Satanism? Buying Rodman's closet? Being legally adopted by Don King? Playing the accordion at his next weigh-in?

Has he got anything at all?

We suspect not, and that's a sobering thought. For Tyson's considerable array of psychological bubbles, the one he goes back to most often is getting our attention by making us cover our eyes and ears.

And it's worked, time and time again, because whatever else we can claim as a national personality, the one in which we like watching train wrecks as they happen ranks either at or near the top.

But it didn't work this time, and the only three possibilities are these:

  • Both the Stanley Cup Finals and Game Six of the Western Conference Final were being played at the same time.

  • Van Susteren doesn't have quite the national throw-weight of, say, Christiane Amanpour, Barbara Walters or Sara Rue.

  • We've run out of time for Mike Tyson.

    If he was serious, well, the legal system is eager and waiting to meet his free time needs. If he was goofing in that playfully antisocial way of his, well, been there, paid $49.95 for the pay-per-view, done that. And if this is one of his many uncontrollable sociopathologies at work, well, once you've tried to eat a fellow boxer, mere words won't get our attention any more.

    In other words, we've matured as a people. We watch people eat live bats for money now.

    This is the first time Tyson has been found guilty of felony boring, which means that the two jobs he did best, fighting and making a fearsome spectacle of himself, are now just things he used to do well.

    And that leaves him with essentially nothing. His money is gone, and it doesn't look like he will make enough fighting to get back to even. His skills as a fighter are gone, or at least diminished to the point of irrelevance.

    And now, he can't even get us angry at him any more, and that says as much about us as it does him.

    Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to

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