|Thursday, May 30
Just watch it, or don't, and stop wondering why
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
With only a few days left until the fight of the (oh, Lord help us all) new century, a disturbing trend among media wiseguys has arisen yet again, namely the need to explain to us why we can't help ourselves as regards Mike Tyson.
And whatever else is known about it, we are told that we all have it, we can't be cured of it, and so we must give in to it, at the going pay per view rate of $55.
Then we are told, literally seconds later in most cases, that there are thousands of millions of billions of tickets still available for the Tyson-Lennox Lewis heavyweight train wreck.
Well, something is plainly wrong here. Either we can help ourselves, or we can't. We are either repelled by Tyson or entranced by him. But this is hardly a pathology of the soul.
What it is, in fact, is the sound of people who do give in to the need to defend the indefensible, trying to pin their psychosis on people who don't.
There are folks who want to see Tyson pull a gun out of his trunks, to hit Lewis with a chair, to pull out his own spleen and eat it during the pre-fight instructions.
Many of them are found in the press room.
That's OK, though. Tyson knows that's what they want, and for perhaps the first time in his career, he is giving them what they want. The only thing left for the media to see is not whether he will beat Lewis, but whether he will use a beach umbrella to check Lewis' prostate along the way.
And that's fine, too, with all due respect to Lewis' prostate. That's the deal you sign on to, if you want to sign on. The presumption that everyone is palpitating to watch Tyson blow Lewis, himself or some unsuspecting wire service reporter to smithereens, however, is only justification for those who actually do. The argument that "I don't want to see it, but everyone else does," just doesn't wash when employed by those who have either paid to see it or been assigned by some editor to do so.
We hear the same thing with regard to the World Cup, in its early stages even as we speak. We have been lectured over and over again, both by those who are true believers and true disbelievers, that we must learn to love, or hate, soccer, as though there can be no middle ground.
We are also getting the third-hand third degree by both sides of the Great Baseball Steroid Debate. You care deeply about this, damn it. No, you don't. You, of course, are conflicted about it, like most people are, but you are sure that the people who tell you what you think are people you would cheerfully run over, then stop, then back over -- just to make them shut the hell up.
Again, the middle ground -- which is a vast middle, indeed. The middle ground is seized by those who don't like being told what they must or must not watch at 4:25 in the morning, just as it is taken by those who aren't necessarily fascinated by the sight of Mike Tyson trying to pull off his own head, or want Mark McGwire to fill a specimen cup in their pantry.
All this half-informed symptomology when delivered by professional blowhards, gasbags and human fleabites serves only to annoy those still under the illusion that we know what we like and we know why we like it.
You know what most folks will do? They'll check the scores to see if their particular ethnic background won that day's match. They'll let someone else buy the pay-per-view and find out in the next morning's paper whether Tyson put a brick in his gloves. They'll go to a ballgame, forget that some of the players might be ingesting some sort of children's-aspirin-caffeine-and-bat's-blood extract, and enjoy the peanuts and beer.
The bigger issues of why we are supposed to think what we are supposed to think evade them, or die unexamined. Most folks are just not that engaged.
And frankly, most folks would rather wait to see what Tyson actually does with that belt sander before making a judgment about how many times we should hit him with that mallet.
Pro-active fandom, after all, takes way too much work.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.