I was using Twitter this morning and came across the son of my childhood hero. In our brief ( limited to 140 characters) conversation he seems like a nice guy and it brought back some great memories. George Best was the David Beckham of the 1970's, maybe even late 60's, but I'm not that old. The difference was George Best was a bad boy, while David Beckham is a global marketing phenomenon, although George Best was a much better soccer player.
George Best first caught my eye as he was from the same small housing estate in Northern Ireland as my Mother, although I was born and raised in England, both my parents referred to him with some reverence due to his rise on the global sports scene from the same humble beginnings as my parents. George played for Manchester United, my sports teacher was from the same city of Manchester and regaled me with tales of the Munich Air Disaster ( although George was not involved). Best was the guy I imagined myself to be as a 8 or 10 year old playing soccer on the school concrete yard. He never quite made it on the global stage, partly due to the playboy lifestyle and partly due to playing for the small country of Northern Ireland. Many famous quotes are attributed to George, the one most commonly repeated is " I spent a lot of money on booze, birds ( women) and fast cars, the rest I just squandered. Pele called Best 'The greatest footballer in the world'.
I remember sending off for some George Best fashion shoes through the newspaper as a child, which were promptly sent back by my Mother as they weren't leather. The highlight of my Christmas was a Manchester United replica kit, with which I would relive the exploits of my hero, at least on field.
Off the field I recall reading about George's exploits through the various British tabloids of the day, following the stories of his break up with Manchester United manager of the day Tommy Docherty.
Years later I moved from the UK to Los Angeles where I now reside. I've even been in George's pub ' Bestie's in Hermosa Beach, CA.
Best passed away in 2005 and was laid to rest in the same cemetery in Belfast where some of my family members are. At the time we were expecting our second child who was born a week after George Best's untimely death. It seemed fitting that his middle name be George, partly after my boyhood hero, partly after the patron saint of England.