In case you’ve been under a rock for the past couple days, a dude did this during a Tuesday World Cup match:
That’s Uruguay ( / Liverpool) striker Luis Suarez. Italy’s Mario Balotelli had been subbed out, making it fairly easy to say that he was also the best player on the field at that point in the match (I’d argue he’s better than Balotelli, but, let’s save that for another day).
“Dave, what the hell? Is he…”
“And he’s, like, good?”
Really, really good. He led the Premier League in goals last season.
This is also the third time he’s been caught biting an opposing player.
“Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?!”
So glad you asked.
Suarez complains to the ref as much as anybody on the field. He flops in ways so brazen, I’d bet they raise Vlade Divac’s eyebrow. He constantly looks like somebody farted in his nearby vicinity. He also inspired this text, from my buddy Matt, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s chomping scandal:
Suarez vaulted into my top five favorite current footballers after that bite today. He is a true villain, and the world is better for it.
I couldn’t agree more, and that’s only partially because I’m a shameless Liverpool homer.
(#RealTalk: The only part of this fiasco – the head-shaking and finger-wagging, the “what about the children” talk, the copious resulting jokes and memes, the fact that somebody bit a dude during the biggest sporting event in the world – that I don’t find at least mildly amusing is the 12-ish Liverpool matches, between Premier and Champions League, that Suarez will miss during his 4-month exile).
“Dave, how could a guy biting another guy be funny?”
Have you heard the saying that getting hit in the balls is tragedy, while someone else getting hit in the balls is comedy? Like that, except with everyone’s balls safe.
Look, I’m not trying to justify going around biting people. Don’t do that. Definitely don’t do it in Florida, where people are likely to believe in zombies and own guns.
In the face of the bizarre – a banner under which Suarez’s in-game snack lies – some people react with horror, disgust, outrage, and/or an array of other emotions. Me? If nobody’s seriously hurt, I laugh.
With the same “so long as nobody gets seriously hurt”, I can appreciate and enjoy a good villain. And, with one bizarre, outrageous act, Luis Suarez became soccer’s Darth Vader.
Sports – especially the big events that draw in non-sports fans – have an element of theater. So much great drama is driven by great villains. How much more interesting is the Wicked Witch than Dorothy? Hannibal Lecter than Agent Starling? (Chuck Klosterman discussed this and other issues surrounding the concept of villainy in the brief, but engaging, “I Wear the Black Hat“).
What would the Ghostbusters have been without Zool? Actually, they would’ve still been pretty funny; all of those dudes were hilarious. Forget I brought up that example.
It’s been said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and a great sports villain can unite rival fan bases like nothing else. Think of the near-universal disdain for my man A-Rod. Or how (mostly white) people rooted and continue to root against LeBron James in the wake of the ham-fisted (but, if we’re being honest, innocuous) ‘The Decision’. Or pretty much every Duke Basketball player of the past thirty years, in general. Mike Vick is so hated that he got people to remember that the Jets exist.
Some athletes revel in playing the foil (Dennis Rodman and the rest of the Bad Boy Pistons), while others do so unwittingly (I’d say Tiger Woods, but it turned out that golf fans are somewhat indifferent to matters of marital fidelity – go figure). In sports, villains draw more interest than any talent not-named Michael Jordan (who, it’s worth noting, is far from a choirboy) could ever hope to attract.
Luis Suarez will serve his ban, and he’ll come back to play for Liverpool or elsewhere. He’ll be booed wherever he goes. He’ll draw levels of morbid curiosity we haven’t seen in sports since the aftermath of Tyson / Holyfield II.
It will be the second consecutive campaign in which Suarez’s appearance will be delayed – he was suspended for the early part of last Premier League season for, you guessed it, biting a dude – but, this will be different. While only the soccer die-hards caught that incident, the whole world was tuned in for this one.
Congratulations, and thank you, Luis Suarez. You did what professional sports need professional athletes to do: get people buy tickets and turn on their TV sets. And you did it by becoming a Bond villain. This one: