One For the Lads – Gary Speed’s Final Artistic Statement

I often hear British Lads mock poets, artists and musicians as morose weaklings prone to hanging themselves for their art. A fanfare for Morrissey please. It may be true, but when the popular former premiership footballer and chief Lad Gary Speed hung himself last weekend, lads everywhere were weeping into their Red Bulls and slamming Renault Clios into bus shelters in tribute. It seems to be getting too much for these kids, living up to the Top Gear thing.

Why are they so surprised that a former footballer hangs himself? The nature of the game promotes a suicidal mentality. Who’d be stupid enough to head the ball? It’s not surprising that a professional footballer who spent his entire career putting his head where it hurts hangs himself. Football is horrible. I played and pretty soon it’s brought to your attention that bravery and stupidity are prerequisites for the game. Lumps are kicked out of you, but you mustn’t grumble or ‘make a meal of it’. Oh no.

But mocking artists as losers with suicidal tendencies has to stop. Damian Hirst did a lot of work on suicide in his early years (‘For Your Safety – Do It’). I wonder whether he’s seen the symmetry in Gary Speed’s suicide. Eye on the ball. Leaps like a salmon. Hangs in the air. I’m just not that surprised that a footballer can do this. He did it every day in training, assuming he did intend to kill himself, and it wasn’t another case of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Many people in far worse situations than Speed kill themselves all the time causing disruption for thousands. No one gets sentimental about them. When someone threatens to end it all, crowds will gather and urge them on. But Speed’s suicide is “so sad”, and it’s “tragic”. I just think it’s hypocrisy, and the words ‘sad’ and ‘tragic’ are overused.