Saturday, November 26, 2005

From Best to worst and back

We will remember George Best for his life, but we should also remember him for his passing.

On the field, we will remember him for his flamboyance, selfishness, daring and innovation. He tried stuff that nobody else thought possible. But we will not remember him for his passing to team-mates when there was a new trick to try out.

Off the field, we will remember him for his stylishness, womanising, quick wits and alcoholism. He drank quantities that nobody else thought possible. But we will not remember him for his passing on a pint, whatever the time of day.

Bodie asked me whether I was upset that he had died. I said I was not so much upset that he had died, but that it had taken his drawn-out, horrible death for him to become an example to youngsters not to drink, and to show the celebrity-mad world that the constant scrutiny causes an auto-iconoclasm in those who crave attention and resent its absence.

So we should remember him for his passing - the point where he knew he was not long for this world, and asked for pictures of his greying, emaciated body, lying helpless on a gurney, to be published so all the world could know the misery of alcohol abuse, and the manner in which he struggled for two days after doctors gave him hours to live, before slipping away.

In these two final acts, he gave us his most valuable gifts of all. I will remember him for his contrition, bravery and long-absent sense of responsibility. He showed characteristics that nobody else thought he possessed. I will remember him for his passing, as much as for the joys he gave us (and himself) in abundance, in his living.

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