When only the Best will do

QUICK Singles is like many people in Australia whose only experience of George Best is grainy footage of a skinny moptop doing wondrous things with a football and then four more decades of scandalous stories about his behaviour after his football career ended.

On Saturday Best's battle against the demons that fuelled then destroyed his life ended in a London hospital.

In an era when sporting heroes can largely be mindless thugs, Best exhibited much charm and wit in the midst of his admittedly self-destructive behaviour.

The stories about Best are all characterised by good humour, such as the tale of the hotel porter who came into the room the footballer and a scantily clad former Miss World were in a bed, surrounded by Best's winnings from the casino the night before.

'George, where did it all go wrong?' the porter was said to have asked.

Or the time he said: 'In 1969 I gave up women and booze. It was the worst 20 minutes of my life.'

And he once quipped: 'I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.'

George Best was a genius and the prototype of the rock star sporting hero ? he was known as the fifth Beatle ? with which we now are all too familiar.

Perhaps it was his failure to deal with this that led him onto the path his career took.

But perhaps the path he took was George Best's path and our attempts to judge him are both narrow and futile. From all reports he was a good man who took success and failure with equanimity.

Apart from depriving a more worthy transplant patient of a liver in 2002, George Best did little damage to anyone but himself.

But he left a legacy of some of the purest footballing moments it is possible ever to see.

When will they

ever learn?

IN the week following a 14-playing day suspension of leading Clarence Valley cricketer Chris Adamson, players on the world stage have been doing their best to bring the game into disrepute.

The actions of Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi in trying to damage the wicket during the second Test against England have rightly been punished.

And in Australia Shane Warne appeared before the match referee on Monday night after a forthright encounter between the Australians and West Indians.

The West Indians resorting to hollering and shouting in between balls ? allegedly in response to some dodgy umpiring ? as Australia knocked off the winning runs was another example of behaviour on the cricket field most would not like to see repeated.

Champion writes

his own script

AS if the sporting writers in the cricket writing world needed reminding of the old chestnut about writing off champions.

Brian Lara's technique was shot, he was jumpy at the crease and forced to graft for runs when formerly he would dominate, said the pundits.

Then along came Lara at Adelaide.

After benefiting from one of his few pieces of umpiring good fortune, when it appeared Andrew Symonds had a good case for an lbw decision, Lara then peeled off 226 majestic runs, breaking Allan Border's Test run-scoring aggregate record in the most emphatic manner.

But Lara on the field is also a champion in other ways, particularly the way he dealt with some of the abysmal umpiring decisions that came his way on this tour.

Hold your hats

WILL the encroachment of technology onto cricket umpiring leave the black and whites with nothing more to do than hold the bowler's hat and count to six?

That's one of the main fears opponents of technology level at its increasing use on the cricket field.

However, after some of the appalling decisions in the last Test match against the West Indies in Adelaide, something needs to be done to improve decision-making.

Australian captain and noted Luddite Ricky Ponting suggested increasing the number of umpires on the elite panel.

At the moment it stands at seven, following the retirement of David Shepherd, and he claims umpires are tired after fulfilling umpiring commitments continually around the planet.

Ancient lessons

IN the ancient Greek Olympics the maidens that placed the winner's laurels on his head leaned forward and whispered a warning to the victor, 'Remember, glory is fleeting' is the best translation.

That was all Greek to the Australia of 2000.

In the throes of hosting the Sydney Olympics, we were the self-proclaimed greatest sporting nation on earth.

In both rugby codes we were world champions, as were our cricketers.

Our swimmers were dominating the pool and even in athletics we had champions such as Cathy Freeman who won us gold.

A mere five years later both rugby teams are in disarray, the Ashes are back in England, Cathy has retired, Hackett will miss the Commonwealth Games we're wondering if the Thorpedo will come back as good as ever.

And this is all good.

When one country dominates a sport for too long, like Australia has done in rugby league since 1972, it is generally an indication that all is not well.

Cheering for the Kiwis

IT has to be said. Quick Singles found himself cheering for the New Zealand team when they were beating Australia hollow in the final of the Tri Nations rugby league tournament on Sunday morning.

You had to admire the passion and determination of the Kiwis, who played the game the way they wanted to and never allowed their opponents into the contest.

As an Aussie I kept waiting for the inevitable comeback, but in vain.

In the end it became an embarrassing procession as the Kangaroos searched for and found new ways to lose.

You got the impression the Australians thought turning up would be enough.

It didn't turn out that way and the Kangaroos could not lift themselves out of their deluded state and were duly punished.

Tragic cricket

QUICK Singles is wondering what those Pakistani youngsters thought when some old fool thought he could gatecrash their cricket match.

It's doubtful many Pakistanis think any Australian cricketer could shoot himself in the foot with an off-break, especially the leader of his country, even though his name is John Howard and not Ricky Ponting.

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