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We don't need to talk about Michael

FEATURE BY CHRIS BALFE
18/06/2014

More years ago than I care to remember, I came home from school to a family crisis. My grandmother's sister Connie had been hit by a car on Waterloo Bridge in the early hours of the morning while returning from her cleaning job. She was, we were told, in a very bad way having suffered a severe head injury.

In the days, weeks and months that followed we prayed that she would survive, that in time she would be back with us, exactly as we knew her. It never happened.

At some point, I don't remember when, she was released from St Thomas's, the London hospital that had been caring for her since the accident, and sent to an infamous psychiatric hospital in Surrey. Over the years, 'patients' included Charlie Chaplin's mother Hannah and David Bowie's (half) brother Terry. Indeed, it was the inspiration for an equally infamous song on Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World album.

We visited but she was not the Connie we knew. She didn't recognise anybody, not even a glimmer, and conversation was limited to a few indecipherable grunts.

Broken-hearted, the visits became less and less frequent until, in time, they ceased entirely. One by one members of her immediate family, her mother, her sisters and brothers, all died until there was nobody left.

A couple of years back, whilst visiting my mother's (and grandparent's) burial plot in north London, I suddenly remembered the location of the other family plot which happened to be in a part of the cemetery that had recently undergone a major facelift. It wasn't long before I found the grave where my grandmother's mother and sister were buried.

The accident had happened in the early 60s, yet Connie had died in 1995, over thirty years of... what?

I make absolutely no apology for the fact that ever since the gravity of Michael Schumacher's accident in December became apparent, the fate of my great aunt has played heavily on my mind. The dreadful thought that one of my racing heroes might similarly never again be the man he was has been a constant fear.

Earlier this week we received the first official bulletin in almost two months, and, as has been reported elsewhere, it was a curious statement, a statement that had been put together meticulously, a statement that told us so very little.

Accompanying the statement were a number of 'notes' advising that, amongst other things, no further explanations to the state of Michael's health would be given, that further phases of rehabilitation were strictly private and would happen under exclusion of the public domain, the statement would not be followed by further information and, finally, that no information or disclosure on when and to which institution Michael had been relocated would be given. In addition, there would be no information about the type or scope of therapeutic measures he would receive.

And yet, and yet...

That brief, four-line statement has given way to another feeding frenzy as the media speculates and hypothesises. Despite the total absence of genuine, new information in that official statement, and the clear legal warning that came with it, sections of the media went into overdrive. Indeed, the Daily Mail, a tabloid which has made an art of scraping the bottom of the barrel, took the opportunity to publish a series of "heart-warming", "intimate" picture of Michael with his wife Corinna.

Personally, and I stress personally, a long while back I made a conscious decision to stop using portraits of Michael, as I found it difficult to deal with. Consequently, I have used pictures of the three main helmet liveries he used over the course of his F1 career together with an action shot of him in the Mercedes, the last F1 car he drove, and the 'Schumacher logo'. I can't explain, but personally I felt there was something wrong in publishing pictures of him grinning , smiling on the podium, or posing with Corinna (whilst skiing!!!) at a time we all knew the reality... that he was fighting for his life.

Unlike my poor gear aunt Connie, Michael has amassed a fortune and as a result he will be getting the very best medical care available. It is now in the hands of the experts - and the gods - as to whether there is a happy outcome or not.

Michael Schumacher was a seven-time champion of our sport, he is up there with many of the other legends we have cheered over the decades. He might be our hero but we do not own him, we do not have a divine right to know every single aspect of his treatment. At the same time we should afford him, his family and those treating him with the privacy and dignity they need and deserve.

Speculation, especially the sensationalised drivel we have been fed in recent days, helps nobody, indeed it merely causes pain.

The fact we don't receive daily updates doesn't mean we have forgotten him. Indeed, far better to have accurate information as and when it is available from those actually treating him.

Fact is, it is in the hands of the gods and while his millions of fans want information the truth of the matter is that unscrupulous sections of the media will merely see that as the green light for more speculative and hurtful drivel... 'it's what the public wants', will be the cry.

Unlike, my great aunt Connie, Michael will never be forgotten. Let's just give him, his family and those treating him some space.

Chris Balfe

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by freddy14755, 5 hours ago

"Its very difficult not to talk about Michael at this time as for all his career in FI he has been my hero, and still is, but I agree entirely with Chris. That said we must still continue to pray for him and his family."

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2. Posted by Kernow-Bys-Vyken, 09/07/2014 14:36

"A nicely written piece Chris. I agree completely we should respect their privacy during these difficult coming months, news on someones personal health & levels of treatment they receive should remain their own business, until such time as they wish to make it otherwise. I do feel Michael & his family should be given more respect by some portions of the press."

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3. Posted by karel, 09/07/2014 14:06

"Is it wrong to be curious after the condition of one of the world greatest F1 drivers ?
I don't think so, do you need to break privacy ? I don' think so.
But the little information there is tells enough."

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4. Posted by Posimosh, 20/06/2014 8:13

"Chris, I think you may have blown the lead in this story. The story is the convoluted, litigious, and frankly bizarre epitaph to an awkward statement that is the equivalent of, "why on earth would you (the press) expect more information about one of the most recognizable people on the face of the earth? It's not like he courted any of this attention, fame, or the resulting acclaim, success, and power that comes with it! Now piss off or we will sue you in to next Tuesday! Now get off my lawn!!"
Has the people advising the ex-future Mrs. Frenzen (oops that's a secret too huh? My bad... Hope I don't get sued... Lol) been drinking Bernie's Metamucil shakes or Max's? It's the 21st century, the info, pictures, and anything else will get out one way or another... They can either lead the story with their information, or obstruct and then follow the story with no control whatsoever.
Ps. The helmet design... You mean his or Eddie Ervin's, after Michael copied it after Eddie left cuz Eddie was "cool" while Schumacher was just awkward? Just wondering..."

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5. Posted by Steve W, 20/06/2014 0:50

"Yes, we need to let this whole tragedy rest. There is no real news on Michael's condition and there may not be for another 2 days or 20 years. Or ever. Nobody really knows what will or won't happen and we just have to leave it at that."

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6. Posted by ed111db, 19/06/2014 16:17

"As a retired nurse, I have worked my share of patients with head injuries (I was in Wound Care). All I think about while reading all the comments is: God Bless, Michael. Until I read something better than the drivel put out by most of the press and his spokespeople, I will withold any other comments as not professional or necessary.
Ed
"

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7. Posted by Soapy, 19/06/2014 12:13

"I don't care what Jenson had for his tea last night or how many times Vettel went to the loo this morning as that is the private life of a public figure. Michaels accident and his subsequent recovery is the business of his family and those treating him, what they chose to let us know is also their business. The Daily Fail is the ****hole of this country delivering shite to newsagents every morning and I for one would never buy it.
I hope Michael will recover fully but only time will tell and when there is any significant news I'm sure we will get to hear it from the proper channels."

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8. Posted by JackTheCat, 19/06/2014 11:42

"This is the best comment on the dreadful accident Michael has suffered that I have read and by quite some margin! Hats off to you Chris. I agree with every word!"

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9. Posted by AlbertoDietz, 19/06/2014 11:22

"I thoroughly agree with your very respectful article, Chris.
Forza, Michael!!"

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10. Posted by Nat, 19/06/2014 9:39

"I'm afraid I don't agree with some if what has been said. Michael had a public persona which demanded and fed off the public, who's loyalty helped to put him on the racing and world podium and thence in such a privileged position not enjoyed by most of us.
His family's wishes should, of course, be respected, but his fans should be permitted to share in what may be a living grief. Then the rumours and speculation would cease and his family's privacy can be maintained. "

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11. Posted by daniel preston, 19/06/2014 9:33

"Well done Chris.
That was the most respectfull and relevant article i've read about Schumacher since the unfortunate accident late last year.
Good luck to Michael & family.
D"

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12. Posted by Dreadnaught, 19/06/2014 8:32

"Dear Editor
As I have said elsewhere there is nearly always a sting in the tail when you are a public figure, court the media and amass a huge fortune. Sadly that is now the situation. Many "celebrities" wish to switch media attention on and off and this simply is not possible. We might desire that it be more "responsible" but in this modern age when any one of us may say our piece in a public forum it is whistling for the moon to expect the Press to be always discrete.
None the less best wishes to Michael and strength to his family."

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13. Posted by GrahamG, 19/06/2014 8:08

"So true ... better for us as fans to remember a hard working and massively skilled champion than to speculate. Article much appreciated for its sensitivity and we should acknowledge the lengths which Sabine and the family have gone to to be dignified in the face of the media. Perhaps an object lesson in itself."

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14. Posted by Rock Doc, 19/06/2014 1:00

"Thanks Chris. Well written and much appreciated.
Get well soon Michael"

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15. Posted by Ro, 18/06/2014 23:24

"We all hope for a recovery. I wont give up on wishing him well. The one grace is that medicine has advanced a lot in 30 years. It wasnt long ago that Richard Hammond had a terrible accident and although he is not 100% the way he was before, hes back with us. Get well soon Michael Schumacher. "

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