Sport, Success & Sadness

It's difficult to put into words the depth of shock and grief felt in many homes across the UK last Sunday morning as it was announced that Gary Speed, the manager of the Welsh football team, had been found dead at his house. He had taken his own life at the age of 42.

Pete Evans | 22:21, Sunday, 05 December 2011

Gary Speed: Jon Candy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsHis death left many well-known media and sports personalities speechless and distraught, whilst the response from the general public has been one of total bewilderment and sorrow.

The spontaneous tribute at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the thousands who gathered to watch Swansea play Aston Villa broke into applause and song during the minute’s silence in Speed’s memory spoke volumes of the profound sense of loss felt by many who didn’t even know him.

The difficulty for many is answering the question 'Why?' Often when such events occur we rationalise it – 'he was a loner', 'she had just suffered a relationship breakdown', 'his business was struggling', 'she couldn’t cope with the guilt'. And yet in this instance, no-one seems to know why it happened. He was a well-loved, successful, healthy man who had a loving and tight-knit family. Everything seemed to be in place for him to be happy and content.  

This week, I read a recent blog posted about another former sportsman, the former boxing World Champion Nigel Benn, and it captures well his own struggle to find contentment. In his case, success and fame was no guarantee of happiness. Here’s an extract from the article:

"I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread but it was a very shallow life," says Benn, a former two-weight world champion who had two era-defining fights with Chris Eubank in the early 1990s as well as one of the most heart-rending fights of any era, his clash with Gerald McClellan, which left the American blind, deaf and wheelchair-bound.

"People were telling me, 'Nigel, you're the best', and I was loving the adulation. I couldn't break that addiction to sex, drugs and rock and roll for love nor money, I was addicted to that for almost all my career. I had everything, but I lost sight of things. You have an affair and you say, 'sorry darlin', here's a new watch; sorry darlin', here's a new mansion'.

"I was hurting the woman I loved and didn't know why. I suffered depression, nervous breakdowns, I just wanted to end it all. It reminds me of Robbie Williams when he said on telly, 'I'm rich beyond my wildest dreams!' And yet he was still suffering from depression. Hello?! You've got £80m and you're suffering from depression?! But that was the same as me - all that money but there was something missing.

"There were two places I was going to end up: a mental hospital or six feet under. And then I read the word of God, Mark 8:36 'What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit your own soul?' Now I'm not chasing anything and my life is splendid."

Document Actions