'THERE was one occasion when I decided I would give up the booze forever – but it turned out to be the worst 20 minutes of my life.''
Such a remark might have been funny in different circumstances. But it was a sad attempt at self-deprecating humour by George Best, a soccer player of pure poetic genius in his prime, long after he had turned into a bloated and tragic alcoholic, his sporting talents long since squandered.
George's increasingly desperate attempts to poke fun at himself, during the tortuous years of his drink-sodden decline, only add to the pathos of his life story.
Now another new biography of Best has hit the shops. In an offbeat sort of way, it just might be of benefit to angsty Irish parents, worried that their second or third-level offspring are already imbibing too much alcohol.
Of course the reality is that a countless number of Irish fathers and mothers are in no position to moralise to their teenage sons and daughters about the evils of the demon drink, given their own propensity to imbibe so much of the stuff.
TCD Freshers' Week was in full swing over the past few days. But it was difficult not to overhear some uneasy parents at a weekend get together, nervously clutching their gin and tonics and sipping their Merlot, bewailing the amount of alcohol consumed by students marking the start of the academic year.
But should they really be surprised? Ireland's complex relationship with the bottle goes back centuries, and this linkage can only continue, if each new generation apes the liquid intake of those who have gone before.
Sounding off about the pitfalls of alcohol can but be of limited benefit in a society with such a schizoid attitude to the whole topic. Therefore dispensing advice to the young on the need for moderation or whatever, requires more than sermonising, if it is to have any real effect.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it could be an idea to purchase this latest George Best biography written by Duncan Hamilton.
It might offer some salient insights, especially to younger males, who could easily identify with the sporting aura and charisma of George Best.
The well-chronicled story of the footballer's gradual descent into the abyss is told all over again. We are reminded of the liver transplant he abused with endless benders, right up until his life support machine was switched off, leaving him dead at 59.
It is at one level a salutary story of wasted talent gradually eroded by uncontrollable addiction.
But there is a greater insight to be gained from the book which could strike a chord with younger minds; it is yet another graphic reminder that alcoholism is more often than not a hereditary disease.
If there is already a heavy drinker in the family of a school or college student, addiction could be inevitable, once the first sip of that first drink is consumed.
Maybe the most insightful story of the George Best saga, is that his mother died from chronic alcoholism at the age of 55, having been completely teetotal until she was in her mid 40s. She was obviously carrying the fatal gene.
Apart from the George Best parable, for the more literary-minded student there is the story of Oona O'Neill, daughter of the great Irish-American playwright Eugene O'Neill, an alcoholic who committed suicide at the age of 40. As in the case of Best's mother, Oona, who went on to marry the actor Charlie Chaplin, only started drinking in her later years when she was widowed. But almost immediately she developed into an out-of-control drunk. She too was genetically predispositioned to become addicted.
And for the student who relates best to some of the ancient truisms of the Irish language – and it just might be a drop in the ocean to do so, but that old proverb might be worth repeating: Briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait. Breeding breaks out through the eyes of the cat.
Or as one of the reference books more politely translates it – people's inherited disposition shows itself in the end.
This is probably all a bit naff for younger ears. But such analogies just might strike a chord with the over-zealous imbiber in college or school, who would be more than aware, if somebody in his extended family has a problem with the gargle.