8 December 2005 Edition
Memories of George Best
BY Matt Treacy
My earliest memory of George Best is the large poster of him that used to adorn the living room wall of my aunt and uncle's. It was somewhat incongruous not least for the fact that it was a GAA house in which there was little interest in soccer at all. I suppose the fact that he was there had to do with an attraction that went beyond George's sporting prowess. An attraction that was on the part of my aunt rather than my uncle I hasten to add.
Best had more or less stopped playing by that time, although there were regular comebacks and cameo appearances that always seemed to disappoint. So he was a bit like the other lost legends of sport you'd hear the oul fellas talk about in the house. Arkle. The Foleys. Joe Louis. It all sounded very exotic and much more interesting than the poor fare we had. Except for Ali and the Dubs of course.
To add to that he was that other exotic being — the Belfast Prod. Not like the ones we saw on the television. Lads with combat jackets and sunglasses and batons. He was from the same place but it would be hard to imagine him in the UDA. Alex Higgins maybe. Best was different; funny when you saw him on Parkinson or the Late Late Show, and amazing looking in those clips of matches from the sport that we had almost lost interest in but that he made look good.
Once the football was over Best became a staple of the chat show and the tabloids. While there may have been the pretence of sympathy or even empathy, in reality he was always a good way to boost ratings and sell newspapers. A modern morality play for the rags that lectured George on the front page and paid teenage girls to show their breasts on page three.
Even as he was dying, there were some who were quick to mount the moral rostrum and pontificate on Best's life. He had wasted his talent. He had become a degenerate, wife-beating alcoholic. There were even some who lectured the dying, although presumably beyond-the-stage-of-caring, Best on his having taken a liver that might have gone to a more deserving person. Let he without sin and all that.
I suppose he was a tragic figure but he seemed to have been fairly honest about himself. Did a lot of stupid things but had a good time, was sorry for the hurt caused, and didn't wallow in self-pity. Much like a lot of us, except he operated on a grander scale and did it in front of a world that never seemed to tire of watching the man disintegrate in front of a camera.