Random Play by Graham Reid

Simply the Best

I only ever saw George Best twice: once on a soccer field, and once in a bar. Given that his life had two distinct periods -- the short time (only six years) he wove his magic around opponents on a pitch and the rest when he lived under the bottle, they seem appropriate memories to hold on to.

As I write this George remains in critical condition in a hospital, from which he is not expected to emerge. It is very sad.

Best was a brilliant soccer player and a heroic drinker. He was also an alcoholic, which -- despite what some might think -- is a condition over which the victim has little control.

As alcoholics will tell you, they may stop drinking but they will always have the predilection for the addiction.

So it wasn’t really that surprising that not long after Best had his famous liver transplant he was back on the bottle.

There was an outcry: how dare he after all that had been done for him?

Well, maybe he didn’t have much choice, I don’t know. But there is another view of that opinion: there are few things worse than actions -- especially charitable or humanitarian ones -- which come with conditions.

Consider: we’ll give you the war widows’ pension on the condition you don’t spend it on gin down at the RSA with your friends.

We’ll send aid to famine and flood victims as long as they only use it for food and don’t fritter it away rebuilding their churches and temples.

We’ll let you have a liver transplant as long as you . . .

Coincidentally -- and I guess it is ironic -- it looks like Best will die just as the new drinking laws are being debated in Britain. Doubtless his life will be held up as a warning, which will be amusing given the string of blondes he escorted and enjoyed.

And now for something completely different: Coldplay are a band whose music I don’t mind but can’t get passionate about. But I can understand the disappointment for their legion of fans here that the band have the opportunity to come in June but can’t -- or won’t -- because the new Vector Arena isn’t going to be completed in time.

They’ve got a petition together (actually the promoter and record company have) to hurry on construction. Well good luck with that one, kids.

But what annoyed me was the way this, as with similar entertainment stories about our lack of venues, has been essayed on television.

The other night the presenter said that not only was Coldplay affected by the stadium being incomplete but bands like the Rolling Stones who were considering coming here might also be in doubt.


I don’t wish to rain on anyone’s petition or media moment but let’s get some perspective here: the Rolling Stones, if they come, would not be thinking about a venue which only holds 12,000. To cart their gear and entourage over here they -- like U2, Springsteen, Metallica and maybe even Coldplay -- would need something considerably larger, like Ericsson Stadium or Western Springs.

Any talk of the Stones in this context is nonsense, but then again in these matters I am used to hearing nonsense.

I live near Eden Park and a year or so ago there was talk about the place being used for concerts over summer. Those behind the idea said there would only be four a season, and I don’t have any great objection to that.

Sure it will be noisy, but four nights over summer I can tolerate. I might even go to some of them.

What annoyed me however was in the case they were making they emphasised these concerts would not be of the metal mayhem/monsters of rock type but more family events like Paul McCartney.

I seem to recall Sir Paul’s name was bandied about a fair bit -- perhaps because he is gentrified and so is his audience.

But as far as I know Macca has not expressed any burning desire to come here, and in fact in the wake of September 11 he cancelled shows in Australia. Frankly, I doubt McCartney will be one of the four acts over summer should they ever eventuate.

The promotion of the concert idea was deliberately misleading and softening people up. So while I have to accept there will be people pissing in the hedges up and down our street after a show I’d like a little more clarification about just what acts specifically, and audience, we could expect.

Hey, maybe it would be really polite Coldplay fans who would pick up the litter and empties left by the rugger-buggers?

Finally back to George Best: the latest as I write is that he might not last the day.

I hope when he passes on that equal weight is given to struggle he had with the bottle, not just the pleasure he took from it -- or the pleasure he gave when he banged the ball into the back of a net.

I for one will raise a glass to life that was in equal parts genius, hilarious and tragic. And I'll remember when I saw him, he was on top form both times.

No doubt that great story will be told over and over again: how, in his second career, he called for room service at some swanky hotel.

The young man brought in the champagne and there was Best, sprawled on the bed with Miss Universe and wads of cash strewn around.

“George,” said the young man, “Where did it all go wrong?”