Neil Humphreys: Losing a hero hurts
Chelsea legend Bonetti's death hits even harder now for our writer
Death can be easier when it has no face.
A faceless death, preferably one with no name, is a statistic and cold statistics are more detached. Degrees of separation push the horror further and further away.
Peter Bonetti may not have died of Covid-19 - neither did Stirling Moss for that matter - but they died on the same day when thousands of others succumbed to the virus.
So the losses hit harder. Moss was one of the finest Formula 1 drivers that England ever produced.
Bonetti was one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation and part of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad.
We knew their names. Sports fans of a certain vintage recognised their faces and that lifelong connection brings death closer to our doorstep.
Bonetti played for Chelsea more times than John Terry, winning the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup in an astonishing club career that stretched from 1960 to 1979. He made 729 appearances for the Blues.
I never saw him play in his prime. But I did see him eat.
In 2005, we had dinner together after Bonetti had participated in a charity match in Indonesia. Despite being 63 at the time, The Cat offered glimpses of those famed feline reflexes.
He played in a surreal all-star contest that included Singapore's Fandi Ahmad, Brazilian Dunga and Careca, Liverpool's Mark Walters, Arsenal's Perry Groves and West Ham's Steve Whitton (look him up).
Bonetti's eagerness to "do his bit" in raising funds for Aceh after the 2004 tsunami was deeply affecting.
While others with less than stellar careers saw the trip as a glorified junket to Jakarta's bars, the humble World Cup winner took his ambassadorial duties seriously.
He was of a different generation, in every sense. Over dinner, Bonetti asked about possible TV punditry work in Singapore, which was awkward, as he didn't fit the demographic laid down by others.
He played in the era that Gary Lineker refers to as "before football existed" - i.e. before the birth of the English Premier League in 1992 - so punditry opportunities were always going to be slim for such an unassuming man. Bonetti didn't belong in a rowdy TV studio.
BATTLES WITH GEORGE BEST
Over dinner, we talked Chelsea and England greats, everyone from Peter Osgood and Terry Venables to Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton. Bonetti even recalled his battles with George Best - among the greatest footballers of all time - as if he were discussing a Sunday morning kick-around with his kids.
We shook hands, took photos and promised to stay in touch if any media work came along.
On Sunday, Bonetti died at the age of 78, following a long illness.
Moss died on the same day. To a certain extent, both men were denied the attention and accolades that their illustrious lives deserved, the latest cruel act from a virus that respects nothing.
The pandemic's ceaseless march of misery even robs us of the chance to pause, take stock, mourn lost icons and reminisce about better days.
There are no better days now. We know the cycle isn't stopping any time soon.
Today, the statistics will change again. Maybe one or two names will be familiar. Maybe the faces will be recognised, too.
And they'll hurt, not because we're naive to believe that personal heroes are immortal, but because they'll be taken too soon. Or, in the case of Bonetti, they may not get the send-off that such a dignified life warranted.
Not that The Cat would've been unduly perturbed by the length of his obituaries or the number of tributes from fellow pros. When he retired, he became a postman. He was utterly devoid of ego.
How the game has changed.
But our hero worship hasn't and that's nothing to be ashamed of. Bonetti's loss hurts a little more because he meant a little more to me and thousands of other football fans.
Just as Liverpool prayed for Kenny Dalglish's recovery from Covid-19 and Leeds United fans hope that Norman "Bite Yer Legs" Hunter wins his battle against the coronavirus.
For many years, these proud men delivered hope and joy and it's difficult to contemplate a change in that emotional relationship, especially now.
So I'm wrapping myself in the warm, comforting blanket of nostalgic YouTube clips, remembering a time when these men were kings.
This damn virus is taking so much. It's not taking the memories of our heroes.