A Luis cannon

Maybe it’s all an elaborate toothpaste advertisement.  Maybe his scoring prowess is derived from some form of medieval cannibalism.  Maybe he has a “taste” for the dramatic.  Regardless, the Luis Suarez clown show marches on. Suarez, a singular talent and loose cannon who plies his trade for Liverpool and, more relevantly, for his native Uruguay, has been a rising star on the world soccer scene for several years.  He has scored fantastic goals, energized successful teams, enraged onlookers with flops, and nearly exploded the soccer world four years ago with his strategic handball that bought Uruguay a ticket to the semifinals at the 2010 World Cup.  Now, four days after receiving a four-month ban from soccer, as well as a nine-match international ban and a large fine from FIFA for biting his World Cup group stage Italian opponent Giorgio Chiellini, the Uruguayan striker is making waves again, this time for an apology.

suarezbitePhoto credit: Getty Images

First, some background.  Soon after the incident, Suarez was unapologetic (to say the least).  More specifically, he denied the bite and claimed that he had “lost his balance” and not actually attempted to nosh on the Italian entree in front of him.  This claim did not exactly ring true for me, and, presumably, for whatever percentage of the observing public is not from Uruguay. The primary factor working against Suarez, other than the fact that he obviously freakin’ bit Chiellini, is that, as you surely know by now, he had already been suspended twice in his career for biting opposing players.  In April of last year, Suarez was banned for 10 games for nibbling on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, whose Serbian flesh was simply too irresistible for the clearly hungry Suarez.  He issued an apology for that incident, saying he had committed “inexcusable behavior.”  In 2010, he munched PSV’s Ottman Bakkal during a play stoppage.  That particular bite involved an absolutely unequivocal lunge toward Bakkal’s trapezius muscle that legitimately made it seem like Suarez was seeking nutrients from the victim’s jugular. Today, Suarez released a written apology to his 3.23 million Twitter followers which read as follows: suareztwitter On the surface, it would appear that Suarez made a complete U (for Uruguay!) turn and has admitted that he is culpable and remorseful for his bizarre assault on Chiellini.  It does not take much scrutiny, however, to see that this is just another piece in the 27 year old’s strange puzzle.  First, there is the widespread belief that La Liga giant Barcelona intends to pry Suarez away from Liverpool for something like £80 million, and demanded that he publicly apologize before any such deal could be consummated. More compelling to me is the fact that Suarez did not even really apologize.  Let’s parse.  First, it should be noted that Suarez released similar apologies via Twitter in both his native Spanish and in the more globally spoken English.  I do not speak Spanish, and cannot comment on that version.  But the English tweet has been retweeted and favorited significantly more than the Spanish version, so it is safe to assume that it is meant to be taken seriously. As for the first paragraph, it is odd to claim that he has now had a chance to regain his calm and to analyze the situation when his initial denial of the chomping came not during or immediately after the game but via media outlets after he had plenty of time to reflect about what had occurred and, presumably, decide on a course of action (namely, denial). The best part of the apology is the amazing quote, “the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.”  The words reek of passivity and deflection.  It could not be a more perfect example of a fake apology issued by a seven year old when forced by a parent to acknowledge an incident — “I’m sorry that the vase got broken” as opposed to “I’m sorry I broke the vase.”  Suarez’s “truth,” after so much “reflection” about what really occurred, is not that he “bit Chiellini,” but that Chiellini “suffered the physical result of a bite.”  Does he want us to conclude that someone else bit Chiellini when Suarez collided with him?  Did he assume that we had previously thought that Chiellini had only suffered the mental or financial results of a bite?  Who is this guy’s media handler?!? The bullet points at the end are a little more direct, and at least appear to be at least an attempt at some sort of apologetic exercise.  That said, they are far from clear.  Note that he says he is sorry for “what occurred,” not for “what I did” (and certainly not for “trying to Robert Pattinson an opponent.”)  The incomplete vow to the public that there will “never again be another incident like…” is also curious, especially in such an allegedly carefully crafted letter.  What do you mean, Luis?  Another incident like what?  Like Chernobyl?  Like the fourth season of Weeds?  Agh. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy31pdfntUw

You know you’ve made it when there are multiple YouTube compilations of your greatest bites

This story would not be so compelling if Suarez were not one of the very best, maybe even five best players in the world.  In his defense, Mike Tyson and Count Dracula are immortal cultural touchstones.  Suarez even looks like a biter — during an early group stage match, when I was rooting for Uruguay and 2010 stud Diego Forlan to make hay at this tournament once again, I commented at least twice on Suarez’s impressively huge teeth.  The man is a true talent and an intriguing mystery, and as sports fans, we are all the better for it.  I think. In the end, all we really know is it’s not just the competition that Luis Suarez wants to chew up and spit out.    

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