Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Farewell, My Flawed Hero; Why Did George Best Fascinate Us, Whether or Not We Watch Football? One Writer Explores How the Man Became a Myth

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Farewell, My Flawed Hero; Why Did George Best Fascinate Us, Whether or Not We Watch Football? One Writer Explores How the Man Became a Myth

Article excerpt

Byline: JUSTIN CARTWRIGHT

GEORGE BEST is dead. It was his good fortune, and a part of his downfall, to be wonderfully good looking as well as prodigiously talented. In the unpredictable way that history throws up iconic figures, his grace and beauty became the embodiment of the new spirit of Britain in the Sixties, the sporting equivalent of The Beatles.

In a few years the nation changed for ever; it may be hard to understand now exactly how enormous that change was. We went, almost overnight, from being a hidebound post-imperialist country that had lost its role in the world to being the most glamorous place in the world, with London as its capital and Liverpool and Manchester helping to drive a new pop culture.

I think you could make a case for saying Match of the Day and Top of the Pops helped create the celebrity culture that has now engulfed us.

Football became glamorous in way that it had never been before, thanks very largely to George Best.

To those of us who saw him in his prime, his sad, even pathetic death is a personal blow. Because he was, for the few years when his talent flared, much more than a footballer: he seemed to represent this new age of possibility that we saw opening up.

Suddenly, with the example of Best, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the new breed of satirists, everyone who was young believed that anything was possible for anybody, wherever they came from.

Best's rise to an unparalleled fame was one of the notes in the deathknell of class and deference. Here he was, a boy from Northern Ireland, barely educated, playing sublime football, but also welcomed and courted everywhere, living the life of a rock star.

Women were transfixed by him. In Manchester, he owned boutiques and restaurants and did all the things that rock stars were doing, although there were reports that he was unhappy.

He didn't look it as he slipped into nightclubs and went missing with actresses and Miss Worlds. The succession of women right up to the last, was, I think, a recognition of his uniqueness. Celebrity on this scale exerts a powerful magnetic force. In Best's case there was an additional little-boy-lost appeal, and it is a truism that many women want to protect helpless men. That it rarely works out as they hoped does not deter them.

ROCK stars, of course, don't have to go to training every morning. Best had taken to drink, and it to him. On the field he still looked extraordinary, light, mercurial, even magical as he left the more lumpen players around him standing. He was a sprite, playing with the hobgoblins; he was youth, with wings.

Discovered by a scout who told Matt Busby that he had found "a 15-yearold genius in Belfast", even the fact that he had perfected his astonishing dribbling skills with old tennis balls on the mean streets where he lived contributed to the myth. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.