by RAY FLEMING l SOMEONE has to say it, so I will. The behaviour of the British media during George Best's last days is deeply worrying. The newspapers cast aside all editorial judgement and restraint in covering the story, doubtless because they feared they would otherwise lose sales to their rivals. And that means the great majority of the British public is complicit in the inappropriate attention given to a man whose death came about entirely from his own indulgence in drink. George Best was a brilliant footballer and doubtless an engaging companion when relatively sober, but the way in which his prolonged illness was routinely assigned to the front pages suggests that despite his self-destruction he was considered to be some kind of role model. Which he most certainly was not. The argument that his awful death might be a warning to others is, of course, sheer cant; George Best's problems have been in and out of the media for decades and needed no further emphasis. Although my criticism is directed mainly at the press the malaise has extended to TV and radio including, regrettably, the BBC. Editors are supposed to have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion and sentiment. Ultimately, therefore, the question seems to centre on what has happened to the British people that they uncomplainingly put up with the elevation of the death of a sad man to something comparable to Princess Diana's death? And not only put up with it but apparently demand it. It is more than thirty years since George Best contributed anything positive to the game of football yet the tributes that followed his death yesterday might have been for a man who had remained a beneficial influence in the game through coaching, management or representation. Instead he did everything he could to diminish even his own achievements. I am sorry that he has died, although I suppose it was in some ways a relief, and I am sorry for the loss his family will feel. But I am more disturbed by what the indulgent media and public reaction to his final illness tells us about the state of mind of the British people today.


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