George Best

The Chronicle has the obit: George Best: 1946-2005.

The handful of soccer players I heard about growing up — a very small group — included Pele and George Best. I remember reading something about Best in Sports Illustrated once. His exploits for Manchester United were described as little short of incredible. Nice article, but it didn’t mean much because soccer wasn’t a U.S. game and I never got to see him play. But following scraps of career news over the years — I took an interest from afar because he was Irish — I knew that alcoholism had cut short his brilliance.

Two bits from the obit worth noting:

” ‘I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars,’ he once said. ‘The rest I just squandered.’ ”

And:

“Best had battled alcoholism for decades and was diagnosed with severe liver damage in 2000. He received a liver transplant in 2002 but later resumed drinking.”

The American sports star who comes immediately to mind is another preternaturally gifted athlete and helpless boozer whom the fans never stopped adoring: Mickey Mantle.

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