One mellows in older age. It helps us live with life’s ups and downs. Even what appeared past disasters have, it seems, become triumphs.
Venerable mother-in-law Wynne pointed this out. “People don’t think much of journalists,” she told me frankly, during a chat. “But I always tell them of you and that young sportsman you let off – in Hong Kong.” When I frowned, she added, “He was a football player, who drank a lot.”
Ah, yes, Georgie Best, one of my missed ‘exclusives’. George – whom many believe was the best - was on a world tour, telling how he beat the booze.
I worked in Hong Kong and heard him on its breakfast radio. Then, coming home late afternoon from our newspaper office, I dropped into a quiet bar owned by a Scottish ex-soccer player. There was a sad George alone in a corner, supping alcohol.
“It was so kind not to take advantage of that poor man’s addiction,” Wynne explained. “It does you great credit, you see.”
Well, perhaps. I never was tough enough for Fleet Street.
My second encounter with a sporting superstar was with snooker player Alex Higgins, another black sheep. After some rumpus he had jumped from a girlfriend’s bedroom window to evade the Press, breaking a leg but escaping.
“Where is Alex Higgins?” screamed a Sunday tabloid’s front page next morning. Well, as it happened, he hobbled into a pub where I was – in Ramsbottom.
The broken man looked terrible and I felt sorry for him. Although it would be a lucrative scoop, I couldn’t betray him.
Alex even limped over on crutches and asked to borrow my paper.
“Mum’s the word,” I told him, with a wink.
His nod of thanks was my only reward – along, of course, with mother-in-law’s congratulations.
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