I looked through the best and the most flamboyant sportsmen and I noticed that some of them are so great that they have to fight their own greatness with demons of their own invention.
Lets take a look at some examples.
The list of footballers who have struggled with demons is a long and depressing one.
Peter Shilton and gambling
George Best and booze
Paul Gasgoigne and gambling/booze
Three giants in football. Shilton played well into his 40’s, George Best was just a pop star god who played football and Paul Gasgoigne believed he was the best.
Best drank himself to an early grave, Gazza’s doing it now and Shilton’s gambling cost him everything.
They created another environment to escape the stress of the real one, they were so brilliant they added challenges to make life interesting.
Best was a name that sold newspapers, and his antics made sure he was often in them.
Gazza is the same, following that well trod path. beaten and with no plan B, death is the easy option.
Shilton’s wife of 40 years has left him and he has nothing left except the memories.
The ultimate great one was Alex “Hurricane” Higgins.
He could pot the balls off the lampshades, and was very popular.Why? He played to the crowd, and it cost him many a match including the world championship.Once the crowd were behind him, he was either unbeatable or he went to pieces.
Higgins sold papers with his antics, the newspaper men knew it, Alex knew it and they fed of each other.
Alex smoked and drank himself to death, dying of malnutrition and cancer and pneumonia.
Higgins popularized the sport.Alex demonized the sport.
Lets face it, watching someone pot balls into a pocket isn’t the most exciting sport, and it takes a genius with electric character to make it interesting. Alex did it, winning the public.
Drink and smoking and gambling and Alex Higgins killed Alex Higgins.That’s what the sponsor’s wanted.
Never predictable, the ‘bad boy’ of snooker. Great moments. But not great consistency.
Friends included Oliver Reed and Brian Moon two of the biggest binge drinkers in history.
Frustrating yet bewitching.
RIP Alex Higgins