Sunday 27 November 2011

There was little doubting the death of Gary Speed cast a shadow over my day today. The shock of someone dying while (physically) A1 was enhanced and multiplied within a short space of time when it emerged he had taken his own life. As news continued to filter out it the message seemed to be that it was the result of a long struggle with depression; this was what was being reported across all news sources and there seemed to be any suggestion of anything else. People seemed to know an awful lot about it very quickly though. This is what happens with social media: gossip moves at the speed of light – or at least decent broadband.

Within a couple of hours I saw people linking to a blog someone had wrote. People posting the link were saying stuff like ‘thought provoking’, ‘makes you think’ and ‘good words’. So I read it – I am not putting a link to it as I didn’t like it. But if you really want to read it google ‘gary speed steve kean blog’ and I am sure you will find it….yes, you will. I have just done it. Basically this guy wrote a blog saying asking how would everyone feel is Steve Kean had been the one who killed himself and how bad would everyone feel.

How many issues do I have with this? For starters: this was about 3 hours after it was announced that Gary Speed had died – for me it was inappropriately timed. I think this was definitely my first issue. But why were so many people thinking it was an incisive piece? [A quick – patronising? – update on who Steve Kean is for people who might not know. Steve Kean is the manager of Blackburn Rovers. He is not doing that well – admittedly in difficult circumstances, the club was bought by an Indian chicken processing company and now seems intent on saying it wants to sign world class footballers when in fact signing players not good enough for Everton. They sacked Sam Allardyce and replaced him with his assistant, Kean. There are sections of the Blackburn support who want Steve Kean sacked and think he is ‘shit’.]

The tone of it was – everyone gives Steve Kean for managing a football team playing badly. What if that made him so sad he hung himself? How bad would we all feel then? Well Gary Speed wasn’t being criticised by anyone. In fact quite the opposite he was very popular. The information released pointed to this being a tragic end to a struggle with depression. So why the comparison? You may as well say how bad would everyone feel is Steve Kean had been hunted for sport by posh people – until being torn apart by dogs while a man called Giles blew a trumpet?

Steve Kean and Gary Speed were in the same line of work. One was quite good at his job but seemingly had a mental illness with tragic consequences; the other is not so good and probably could do without being booed but also is paid very well. I don’t see how transposing their lives and pre-supposing one had died rather than the other really illustrates anything. I think it’s a bit harsh on Blackburn fans who pay to go and watch their team to suggest they are in danger of killing Steve Kean by wanting a new manager. YES: it is only a game, but this goes for everyone – the manager should be accepting of criticism as they are of the financial rewards that exist in a notoriously stressful and cutthroat industry. If someone is ill then it is a completely different issue.

I think my – badly made/written – point is that the tragic (most used word to talk about Gary Speed) events of today is that depression is not exclusive to the downtrodden, the unsuccessful, the ugly and the shit. It’s an illness and there needs to be more education about identifying and treating people. It should not be an excuse to stop anyone being able to vocalise their feelings at football through the fear that someone is going to top themself. [And to make sure people are ok too.]

It is quite difficult for things to remain proportional when something so sad happens – and the way everything is amplified by Facebook and Twitter makes it tenfold. For example there is a place for jokes – as is my eternal philosophy. Not jokes about Him dying but jokes about it all. My mate (who might not want to be associated with the comment so I wont name him as Al) sent the funniest comment of the day when he sent me an SMS outraged that someone has done a Facebook status NOT about Gary Speed only an hour or so after the news broke and how disrespectful it was. For me, the joy this gag caused me was almost worth everything had gone before*.

Even PROPER journalists (I mean not just pathetic bloggers: the losers) seemed to go a bit mad. Oliver Holt, from The Times, said that Gary Speed getting ‘coach of the year’ at the BBC Sports Awards was a ‘good idea’. What? And what’s the rationale behind that? I realise that grief affects people in different ways and I generally think it’s best not to judge people on what they say while expressing grief. But award someone as sports coach of the year because they took their own life? What? (Again) Unless he is suggesting a few decent, encouraging but ultimately meaningless results for the Wales football team are the reason he should win the award and it was just a co-incidence to say it on this date.

My vote goes to Peter Moores, for those who are interested – who coached LCCC to the first (outright) County Championship that Lancashire has won in nearly 80 years, with a team that was fancied for little more than a fight against relegation. I realise there is a certain callousness to my suggestion – taking in to account only Moores’ achievements as a coach of a sporting team. And for that I make no apologies: sorry to those offended by it.

*See now that is probably offensive.

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