We Like Mike

Keep your ideals -- and give us your press passes.



To the critics of the Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis fight and the possibility of it being held in Memphis: The more sordid members of the local media respect and admire your moral stand. We understand completely your concerns. And we would really, really like your tickets and press passes if this thing happens and, for the sake of consistency, you won't be going.

There will, of course, be lots of other sports alternatives on June 8th. The Redbirds are at home against Oklahoma City in the third game of a four-game set. The NBA season will only be in its ninth month, with the conclusion just weeks away. The Nashville Predators could still be in the NHL playoffs. And there's a big bass-fishing tournament up in Missouri that weekend.

Alternately, The Pyramid could be bathed in klieg lights with stretch limos lined up along Front Street and television cameras from around the world focused on the preening celebrities and the spectacle inside and outside the building. Every hotel and restaurant within miles and every club on Beale Street and in Peabody Place could be packed with customers.

Isn't that what they were made for?

The Tunica casinos and their Las Vegas owners would underwrite some of the costs of the fight because it could fill their hotel rooms, restaurants, and gambling halls with high-stakes players. Isn't that what Tunica's 10-year-old casino empire was built for? If they want the fight real bad, stick them with a share of the security costs too. It's not like they're demanding a new arena.

And, let's face it, this is what we, the media, were made for. For a couple weeks, consolidation and schools and murder and mayhem (assuming Tyson behaves) and wrecks and robberies would be space fillers. And we get the chance to be Howard Cosell on Ali vs. Frazier or A.J. Liebling on Moore vs. Marciano or H.L. Mencken on Dempsey vs. Carpentier or Entertainment Tonight at the Oscars.

What's not to like about that?

Imagine Mayor Herenton, a former boxer, wearing a tux and a grin in one of those corny dukes-up poses with Tyson and Lewis.

Or Isaac Hayes singing the National Anthem.

Or the worldwide media getting a taste of Memphis music and Memphis barbecue and Memphis hospitality. Lennox Lewis, remember, is from London. The coverage would be huge.

Imagine people you haven't heard from in years calling you up to chat or inquire about extra tickets.

For a change, the hype is understated. A heavyweight title fight wouldn't just be the biggest sports event in Memphis since -- what? -- Bear Bryant's last game? It would be the biggest media event since the death of Elvis.

The people who mock Memphis will mock Memphis anyway. As the above cartoon shows, that's already begun and Memphis hasn't even been chosen. But a funny thing seems to be happening. The columnists in Detroit and Washington, D.C., which are rivals of Memphis for the fight, are strangely quiet. Maybe they sense that this one's going to Memphis. Or maybe the fight is seen as "a black thing," and criticism would be politically incorrect. In The Washington Post this week, only veteran political columnist Mary McGrory ripped Tyson and the fight. But with all due respect to the excellent Ms. McGrory, she is not exactly the target audience.

Two weeks of televised Olympic figure skating and the half-pipe, 70 college and professional basketball games, and 35 minor-league baseball games are not everyone's cup of tea.

Those of us who enjoy the spectacle of a good fight had a bad week. We lost Harold Jr. vs. Lamar. We lost Tipper vs. Lamar. So bring on Tyson vs. Lewis.

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