Tyson's enduring appeal boils down to: What might this maniac do next? Tyson knows he can be the devil inside us all. As he once said: "This country wasn't built on moral fiber. This country was built on rape, slavery, murder, degradation and affiliation with crime."
He knows he is a part of us all.
And he knows exactly what we need to hear before he fights. On cue during Wednesday's media session, Tyson told a blustering advisor of McBride's to shut up or, "You're going to get your fighter killed."
When this clown persisted, Tyson said of McBride: "I'm going to gut him like a fish."
Subliminal headline: Tyson skins, fries McBride.
Surely every talk show host in every town in America talked about Tyson's "gut him like a fish" line. That one brilliant jab was worth millions in publicity. Here was a joke of a heavyweight threatening a much bigger joke of a heavyweight, and media members ran with it as if this were Ali predicting what he'd do to Frazier before the Thrilla in Manila.
That's the raw genius of Mike Tyson.
Tyson once said: "At times I come across as crude or crass but I like to be that person. I like to show you all that person because that's who you come to see."
No doubt Tyson is, at his core, a thug. But so are a lot of professional athletes.
Yes, he was convicted of rape and spent three years in prison. Yes, when he realized he was losing a second straight fight to an aging Evander Holyfield, Tyson "went back to the streets," as he said afterward, and bit off part of Holyfield's ear. Yes, he says he was dependent on marijuana for a while and he has fought sexual addiction.
All fairly commonplace NFL behavior.
Yet Tyson has made and spent more money quicker than any NFL star ever dreamed of. Last year, he filed for bankruptcy after making more than $400 million in his career. So our dark sides fantasize about how we would squander that much money.
And he feeds our imaginations with lines like: "I may like to fornicate more than other people."
He flaunts his hold over us by saying, "I can sell out Madison Square Garden [performing sex on himself]."
Sadly, he's quite right.
A year ago, he told the New York Times he was living in homeless shelters. Now he's denying rumors that he's still spending extravagantly on homes and cars.
Reportedly, all but about $250,000 of Saturday night's $5 million payoff will go to creditors, including an ex-wife. Yet even if that's true, how many of us would like to make $250,000 for no more than an hour's work?
No, it's not Tyson's fault that he came along at a time when teenage athletes started realizing that even football is safer than boxing. No, it isn't his fault that he hasn't had much competition, or that the heavyweight division remains so weak and boring that he's still by far its biggest draw.
But after a pudgy and lazy Tyson suffered a 10th-round shock-out by somebody named Buster Douglas in 1990, and then did his prison stint, he lost his rage to win, and gradually realized he was more entertainer than fighter.