My mother would always tell me to give her flowers while she was alive and not when she was dead. She didn’t use the word ‘passed’ but was quite emphatic in accentuating ‘dead’.
Her point was that she wanted to feel appreciated when she was alive.
Argentina’s golden boy Diego Maradona died on Wednesday from a heart attack. He was 60 years-old. Maradona in the past few years would have wanted the global outpouring while he was still crazily alive to bask in the glory of the adulation.
As world soccer mourned him, tributes flowed about his genius and his incomparable stature in the game. He has been presented as a saint when there was nothing saintly about his life. He was a footballing genius but a saint he wasn’t.
Maradona, in the past decade, was publicly cursed more than he was courted. His life troubles were primary to news reports and his footballing exploits were secondary. He would have felt he should have been more appreciated and that his life away from soccer should have been his to live and not the media and public’s to judge.
He would have wanted a bit more love and acceptance in life; not in death.
Now he is dead, all the memory is of his dazzling runs on a football pitch, or his contribution to Argentina.
When it comes to troubled sporting stars who pass away, the media mourning is so often in contrast to the media mugging that leads to the front page leads and the home page breaking news.
Sports stars are as fallible and vulnerable as every other person who lives outside of the public glare. These sporting stars’ gifts are also their curse because the public perception is that they must somehow be exempt from substance abuse, alcohol dependency, rocky relationships and rank poor life decisions.
Perhaps it is the voyeur in all of us that we obsess with those in the public eye, but it is an ugly obsession when the failings are so eagerly consumed.
French rugby player Christophe Dominici also died this week. Dominici was just 48 years-old and indications are that his death could have been a suicide, based on financial difficulties.
Dominici was an outstanding winger for France and scored a memorable try when France beat the All Blacks at Twickenham in the 1999 World Cup semi-final.
He was an orphan and he did it tough as a youngster before settling at Paris’s Stade Francais club.
News reports quoted witnesses as saying they saw Dominici climb to the top of a deserted building and fall and that he had been suffering depression because of a big financial deal that had not materialized.
Dominici, as a player, did magnificent things on a rugby field, but that wasn’t always as celebrated as much as his battles away from a rugby field were reported on.
The late Springbok wing James Small’s life also ended in controversial circumstances, just as his international career did when he was axed after playing 47 Tests.
Small was an entertainer on the field but his personality complexities played out in his personal life and the media spotlight on him never dulled.
Small, like Maradona, would have wanted more love when he was alive and most definitely less judgement.
Those sporting stars, whose talents and achievements allow for our momentary escape from the day to day realities of life, aren’t celebrated enough for giving us this luxury.
But they certainly are condemned way too much for showing us their human fallibility in how they make mistakes and poor decisions in living their lives.
Whenever a big name passes, there is a moment’s pause and appreciation of that person.
It would be wonderful if it didn’t need that person to die for that appreciation to happen more often.