I’m not even going to Google the the Sun’s website to see “the first pictures of Paul Gascoigne after he checked into rehab”. For one thing, the Sun is not the first ugly tabloid newspaper to intrude into Gazza’s privacy – the putrid Daily Star managed that a few days ago – but it doesn’t matter. The only pictures I want to see of the finest English footballer of his generation will be those that he chooses to share with the world when he has recovered. But the reason these intrusions into a sick man’s private life appear at all is our fault.
The public feeds tabloid abuse and intrusion by buying the papers in the first place. If people decided, individually or collectively, to simply stop buying the sleazy tabloids, they would either close down or be forced to change their tune. Nothing is worse than reading people say things like, “Not everyone who reads the Sun or Mail is a vicious right wing ambulance chasing voyeur” because that is not the point. My late stepfather bought the poisonous Daily Mail for no other reason than he liked their crossword. He was a decent, gentle man who didn’t have a bigoted bone in his body, unlike the editor and staff of that particular newspaper. But his money encouraged the bloodhounds of journalism.
In a way, I should not even mention Gazza by name at all because I am probably adding, in a minuscule way (this is not a website that reaches millions) I am doing my bit to feed the frenzy, but I do it because I want the media to stop, right now, the trolling of a sick man. Let us be quite clear about this: alcoholism is an illness and it ruins lives. We have probably all had a good laugh about the actions of a particular drunk, to even have been that drunk. That’s not the same as publicising it. If a well known celebrity was suffering from cancer, do you think the hate-filled red tops would run stories and show long-lens photos of the victim, showing her/him as “thin and gaunt”? Well, yes, actually. That’s exactly what they do and have always done. It’s a story and we, the Great British Public, have encouraged it by paying money to the likes of Murdoch and Rothermere.
I see the sad decline of a once-great footballer, probably not the sharpest tool in the box, unable to cope with the microscope of the media and the pressures of fame, out on the town with his celebrity mates who are drinking from the fountain of his fame (where are they today?) and later left to rot all on his own. And I want him to get better.
I want Gazza to get better and survive into old age. He cannot escape celebrity because of his sporting greatness but we can assist in his recovery. We can do our bit. My bit will probably be to stop writing about him, even though next to no one will read this. I won’t seek out pictures of Gazza in treatment, whether or not they paint an optimistic story. I won’t buy any of the newspapers that make money from exploiting a man who is so ill and will hope (not pray: that doesn’t work) that Paul Gascoigne makes a full recovery and it able to enjoy the rest of his life fit, healthy and able to share with us the stories of his greatness as a footballer. A picture of Gazza in rehab doesn’t do it for me.