Page 2 columnist
I had a truly horrible dream last night about how I blundered into a fight between Mike Tyson and Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. I was sitting next to Arnold (current betting favorite to be the next Governor of California) in the back seat of a black stretch-limozine. We were on our way to a TV studio for a debate about his long-time working friendship with the powerful Bush family from Texas and how it might affect the next Bush presidency when The Terminator seizes power in Sacramento and tries to hand over the state's 54 electoral votes by election day in 2004. That is the basic plan behind Schwarzenegger running. He doesn't want to be Governor, he just wants the electoral votes to go to Bush this time.
It was a solemn subject and I didn't quite understand why Schwarzenegger had agreed to debate it in public, with me or anyone else except maybe Karl Rove. He was raving and snarling into his cell-phone about something that had to do with Arriana Huffington, so we tried to ignore him as the limo crept along in a grid-lock traffic jam. Tempers were rising and there were no ice cubes and we were sure to be late for the TV debate. I was ready to jump out of the car at the next stoplight and hide out at the Polo Lounge.
Suddenly I felt the car stop. The brakes screeched as the limo rear-ended a big SUV right in front of us. BANG. It was not much, more like a nudge than a crash, not even a small fender-bender -- and then the violence began.
I was looking over the driver's shoulder when I saw what looked like a small burly black man leap out of the SUV and come sprinting toward us, bellowing savagely, "You damn crazy honky bastard! I'll kill you for this!" There were desperate screaming sounds and then the awful smashing of window glass, and then the car began rocking crazily. There was something familiar about our attacker's face, but it was all happening so fast that I couldn't be sure.
Then, ye gods, I recognized the vicious snarling face of Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion of the world who once seemed unbeatable forever, by anybody -- until he went over to Tokyo for a low-rent, bum-of-the-month-type, no-interest, who-cares "tune-up fight" against some unranked, oft-beaten challenger named Buster Douglas. He was such a hopeless underdog against Tyson that the fight was actually taken off the board in Las Vegas, when the odds reached 40-1.
I only watched it on HBO because I knew I had to write about it that week. Nobody else even wanted to watch it with me. We had all been Suckered once too often into paying big money to watch Tyson race across the ring and beat another terrified fighter half to death in 90 seconds, or 85 seconds, and that was it. There was no more.
Mike Tyson took all the fun out of boxing -- especially for those of us who grew up on Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. I remember two minor details from the slow days leading up to the fight in Tokyo. One was a flippant reply by Tyson when Larry Merchant asked him if there was any possible way that he might lose this waltz with Douglas.
"Only if they have a sharp-shooter in the crowd." said Iron Mike with a confident leer.
The other memorable detail from that week was that Tyson had traveled by himself all the way to Japan, 15,000 miles RT, 36 hours on a commercial airliner, because he was publicly crazed and distressed by the breakup of his first marriage to super-popular TV actress Robin Givens, which was driving him nuts.
I noticed this and made a mental note of it. Mike Tyson, as history now shows us, has an extremely fragile ego when it comes to being rejected by women. There is no record of him doing anything but flipping out and spiraling into violence. Back in 1990, those episodes seemed vaguely quaint or goofy, clearly driven by passions beyond his control. What the hell? Aren't all violent high-strung athletes that way?
And that was my situation when the fight began. I was certain that it would end quickly, like all the others. Why shouldn't it? Why indeed? But now, in long retrospect, that first and only Tyson-Douglas fight was a wild and crazy thing. Buster Douglas literally beat the living piss out of the champ. It was one of the best and most shocking upsets in the history of professional boxing. Scheduled for 12 rounds, it ended with a knockout by Douglas after only 10.
I still watch that fight on tape from time to time, just for the wild excitement of it, the sheer impossibility. It ranks right up there with some of Ali's finest hours.
There was no joy in Atlanta, or anywhere else in the NFL last week, for Mike Vick went down with a broken leg on the first offensive series of a meaningless preseason game. I was watching the play when it happened, and there was nothing particularly brutal or vicious about the tackle. It looked to me like a broken play that left Vick caught in his own backfield for a minor loss. So what?
But then, when he didn't get up for too many minutes, the crowd began to rumble and groan. And then they brought on that evil yellow cart that always signals something ugly -- but neverwith a hot young super star like Mike Vick, who was thought to be invincible, too tough to hurt and too fast to catch. Vick was perfectly on track to become the Michael Jordan of his time. It was impossible for him to be crippled and put out for the season.
But it was true. The Falcons big Superbowl dreams and high expectations went up in smoke when Vick went down. All-pro wideout Peerless Price, their spectacular off-season acquisition in a trade with Buffalo, was a sure bet to hook up with Vick and produce instant Joe Montana/Jerry Rice-type results. But it suddenly looked like just another stupid personal mistake for both parties. Buffalo gave up its finest and most productive receiver (1,252 yards, 9 TDs, 94 catches last year), leaving Drew Bledsoe nobody special to throw to -- and now Price with nobody special throwing passes to him -- and the NFL without its hottest box office attraction.
As for my horrible dream about Tyson and the Terminator beating each other to death on a crowded street in the middle of Hollywood, I woke up before it ended and I can't remember who prevailed. It was just another small tragedy in the world of sports. Okay. That's it for now. Banzai.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.
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