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Tyson's fate


THE TEMPTATION is strong to say that Mike Tyson deserves to suffer during every minute of the prison term that surely awaits him. After all, this is a man who boasted of hurting women, and who worked his way up to a rape conviction with a string of assaults and a pattern of lewd, vicious behavior. If character is fate, mercy has no role here.

That temptation is enhanced by the belief that justice demands zero tolerance for rapists. Too many women suffer this peculiar brand of sexual violence, afraid even to report the crime out of fear of being victimized again by a court system that makes them prove their innocence.

But there is another dimension to the jury's ringing verdict in Indianapolis, one crying out for attention if not mercy. It is the stunning tragedy of Mike Tyson, the human being trapped inside a glaringly defective product of American society.

A Brooklyn street urchin, he was a criminal by the age of 12. Those who would steer him straight showed him the boxing ring, where his penchant for violence was quickly rewarded with adulation and wealth. But nobody succeeded, if anyone tried, in teaching him that his fists could never elevate him above the law.

So now Iron Mike will be caged -- if not tamed; a champion defeated by his own flaws. It is an ending writ large with lessons for a culture devoted to violence.

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