Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2002 / 22 Shevat, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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Consumer Reports

Saying No to Tyson:
Integrity Beats Out Greed -- EVEN those who are aware of the history of Las Vegas - and how, over the last couple of decades, that city and the State of Nevada have moved to change the Vegas image - must have been surprised when the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to renew Mike Tyson's license so he could fight Lennox Lewis and help bring $300 million to town.

It was both a high and a low moment in sports. High, because there may have been some kind of integrity involved. Low, because the decision may have been motivated by the fear that if Tyson received his license after his explosion here in New York last week, he would go on to bring new levels of shame to Las Vegas. There is a rape report in that city that may be laid on the famous boxer.

Imagine yourself on the licensing panel and sitting in front of you is this guy who is so far out of control that even he doesn't know when or where he will next fly violently loose.

In one corner, there is all that money, all the people the fight would draw, all the dollars they would spend on hotels, food, gambling and public and private fun.

In the other corner is the long run that Vegas had with the gangsters - the guys, as a character in "The Godfather, Part II" says, with the oily hair and expensive suits who came out West to corrupt G-d's clean country.

Those guys were known, among other things, to fix bouts by pressuring the assumed winner to lose and to commit brutal acts against those who would not cooperate. Boxing was a leather-and-canvas plantation.

But things have changed a great deal over the years, and certain kinds of corruption do not now obtain in the punch-and-bruise shop of the ring. There are far fewer men ruined for life, and organized crime either has been supplanted or, some say, replaced by Don King. Many charges have been thrown at King, but none has stuck.

So you sit there on the licensing panel with all that money rustling and gleaming in one corner and all that muck stacked up in the other, flies circling itlike the moons around Jupiter. To getthat money, you have to embrace thatmuck and walk down the street withthe flies buzzing around your head. Well, you wouldn't be the first.

But not this time. For once, something like principle won out over greed, and we are all the better for it - especially in a time when the chance to profit so often tempts those in positions of authority to let the sludge slide by. Think Enron. Think Arthur Andersen.

Of course, Tyson didn't give the panel much choice. Showing no remorse for last week's explosion, he just mouthed platitudes that were insulting to the intelligence of a moron. It was a low moment for boxing, and that's saying a lot.

Perhaps we are on the way to a new consciousness in sports, or a return to principles beyond material gain. Perhaps not. But I'd like to think we are starting to see acts of honor outnumber those driven by greed.

We should be so blessed.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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