Over the years, Mike Tyson’s been in the news a fair amount, usually for something embarrassing or illegal. A sympathetic figure he is not.

But Tuesday, his four-year-old daughter died. And if there’s anything that unites people of all types and temperaments, it’s the death of a child.

Her name was Exodus. She somehow got caught on a loop of cable on an exercise treadmill and suffocated.

Our condolences, of course, to the Tyson family on their tragic loss. And right when it seemed like Tyson’s life might have been turning a corner lately, too.

Even the casual sports fan knows the basics of the Mike Tyson story: run-ins with the law, group homes, petty crime, etc. There’s no need to revisit any of that.

It was easy to view him as either victim or sociopath. For some reason, I guess I’ve always viewed him as both, instead of just one or the other.

Sure, he made some bad choices, and he acted like a barely-contained ball of fury ready to lash out at any time. But at the same time, I felt a little bit sorry for him; he seemed like he never really grew up, because he wasn’t forced to. He basically admits as much:

“I don’t know who I am,” he told the newspaper. “That might sound stupid. I really have no idea. All my life I’ve been drinking and drugging and partying, and all of a sudden this comes to a stop.”

And then, just a few weeks ago, I saw a segment of “At the Movies” where they discussed the new documentary Tyson. Both reviewers, to my surprise, not only liked the movie, they admitted that Tyson himself comes across as a sympathetic character. This review in Rolling Stone is very favorable as well.

Mike Tyson as a sympathetic character. Pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it?

I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t vouch for how accurate this all is, and it is a documentary with Mike Tyson as one of the producers, so take it with a grain of salt. But supposedly he takes responsibility for his actions and his drug abuse over the years and seems more like a real person than the cartoon character he’s been portrayed as.

He’s alleged to have cleaned up now. So, I found myself over the last few weeks rooting for him.

And now his little girl’s died.

Now, I’m no Mike Tyson, because I didn’t blow through $300 million and declare bankruptcy, along with all the rest of it. But I am a father of three, and I know that I’d have tremendous difficulty adapting to something like losing my four-year-old child.

I have to think if he finds the strength to pass this test, he can pass any other test life may throw at him in the future.

(published at TheLoveofSports.com, May 2009)