5 Minutes with Iron Mike and Spike

June 19, 2012 – In my time with the Yankees, I’ve conducted several interviews, which I believe were successful because of how candid the subjects were.

When I think back on the last few years, my time with Goose Gossage, Joe Torre and Lou Piniella, Alex Rodriguez and Dan Marino come to mind. Those guys spoke openly about baseball, football and life.

But earlier today, I found out what candor is, on a completely different level.

I had the opportunity to spend an hour with Mike Tyson and Spike Lee in New York City, and I quickly learned that the former heavyweight champion says whatever is on his mind.

Lee and Tyson sat down with me a day after it was announced that Tyson will make his Broadway debut in the show “Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth.” The one-man show, which Lee is going to direct, will begin playing at the Longacre Theatre on July 31 for a six-night run.

The interview and photo shoot were set up by James L. Nederlander, who owns several Broadway theaters and who brought this show to the Great White Way. Nederlander, who lent us his office for the interview, is also a limited partner of the New York Yankees.

In the show, Tyson will discuss the intimate details of his roller-coaster life, and if my interview with him is any indication, it will reveal everything you ever wanted to know about him.

“I think it’s going to be very uplifting,” Tyson said. “You’re going to find that I was just a young kid when I was at the height of my professional boxing career. I was just a young, lost kid. I probably had three girlfriends, so that’s probably why I got a divorce when I got married for the first time. I didn’t understand life. I was very violent, because of the environment I was from. You had to be violent to be the top of the food chain.”

Tyson also discussed his relationship with Cus D’Amato, the late trainer who saved him from a life on the streets and helped propel him to become one of the greatest athletes in history.

“Cus was the first person who treated me with any kind of respect,” Tyson said. “No one had any hopes for me including my mother. Once I met Cus, no one ever picked on me again.”

Later in the interview, Tyson discussed how different he is — and how different his life is — today.

“People don’t change,” Tyson said. “We just get wiser. The person that we were before is always in us, reminding us not to be that person. We’re all animals that are taught to be human beings and some of us learn quicker than others. It took me a lot longer than most people.”

Before team photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht and I returned to the Stadium, we took to the street, so that she could capture an image of Tyson and Lee (below) on Broadway.

The rest of the interview with Tyson and Lee is just as riveting as what is in this blog entry, and it will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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