Book Review: George Best A Memoir by Michael Parkinson
Michael Parkinson was friends with George Best (1946-2005) for over 30 years; if anyone could shed light on this genesis of a footballer surely, he could. Yet throughout the book (George Best: A Memoir) it contains memories as the title suggests, but does not shed any new light on this complex but highly charismatic footballer.
Best had the football skills to be respected by men and the good looks to be adored by women. It would seem he had everything one could wish for. But as Parkinson documents, his career was lost in the night clubs, bars and casinos of Manchester. Becoming an alcoholic unable to be helped by those close to him, even Parky. Countless people tried. There have been over twenty-five biographies written on the man including a few by George himself. All looking for explanations and insights into him and finding nothing which is satisfactory. Here’s another.
George’s Football Talent
Best is still regarded by many critics as arguably the greatest footballer Britain has produced. Despite his self-destruction and erratic behaviour, the people of Northern Ireland where he was born, adore him. Giving George a final send-off, more in keeping with royalty than a sportsman. Also, naming an airport in his honour, such was his impact on people’s lives. The football Best played in the sixties and early seventies was breath taking. No one had seen anything like this before, ‘a butterfly emerging into the sunlight’ said Parky.
He went on to win with Manchester United two championship medals (1964 & 1967) and European Cup (1968) alongside Footballer of the year and European footballer of the year (1968). For those that never saw him play, it is difficult to describe the gasp of breath the crowd would in take when he received the ball in anticipation something incredible could happen, such was his magic on the pitch.
Parkinson’s memories are profound but he confessed ‘I wrote this book in a sense out of guilt because I didn’t say goodbye to him.’ Although they had spoken on the phone several times, it wasn’t as it had been and he wanted to remember George as he was and not the person fading away in hospital so badly ill.
Best & Parky’s Friendship
Parkinson with the help of his son (co-author) recalls his first meeting with George. Setting the scene with chapters on Manchester at the time, where Parky worked as a journalist at Granada Studio’s. He does some historical recounting of the great Busby babes and the Munich plane crash. These incidents paved the way for Best and others to eventually win the European Cup for Matt Busby (manager). Whose exciting 50’s side were attempting to win when the disaster struck. Busby once told Parkinson it wasn’t only Best’s skill that caught his eye. As a youngster in the first team, it was also his ‘calmness before the game’. Nothing flustered him.
It is obvious Michael Parkinson truly liked George Best. Respected his skill but at times found him just as bewildering as others who tried to help him. George visited his house many times in that period staying over. Playing football with his three sons and family cat. The Parkinson’s were remarkably open-minded allowing Best to go off and bring women back to the house. ‘A different leggy blonde model each time’ according to Parkinson. One conquest coming downstairs in the morning offering to help with the cleaning.
Parkinson’s Book(s) on George Best
The publication contains transcripts from some Parkinson’s TV interviews of Best. There were five in total with only four remaining, the first in 1971 was wiped by the BBC along with other interviews much to the anger of Parky. This scandalous destruction was not uncommon for the time. He also includes writings from his own 1975 book on George ‘An Intimate Biography’.
But there is little new in this publication, for those who have followed George’s career being the first footballer to transcend his sport, a marketing man’s dream endorsing among others aftershave, sausages on our TV screens and fashionable clothing in magazines.
Football Guest Speakers
Comicus provides football speakers for events who played with George Best and journalists who worked alongside him as a pundit. These include Garry Richardson, Sammy McIlroy, Lou Macari, Tommy Docherty, Mike Summebee, Alan Mullery, Kevin Keegan and Geoff Hurst each have incredible stories to tell.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.