June 25, 2014
Thoughts on the Suarez Bite at the World Cup … and How Social Media Swallowed Him Whole
• Given the rabid ridicule of yesterday’s World Cup incident on social media, I guess mental health awareness still has a long way to go. Suarez has been undergoing treatment for this impulse control problem — all three incidents occurred in high pressure situations near the end of extremely critically games.
To people in the know, yesterday’s bite came as no surprise. In fact, some media actually anticipated it — the bookies even taking action on it. (For example, there’s ESPN’s Portrait of a serial winner: A journey in pursuit of Luis Suarez, who — when he’s not biting opponents — is the most beautiful player in the game” or Toronto Star predicting last December: “He will do something insane at this summer’s World Cup — mark it down.”
Hey, maybe Snickers can sell some candy bars tomorrow riffing off players with manic-depression or Tourette’s Syndrome. Or given Suarez’s difficult background, maybe the next target is one of those NFL players who’s gone postal.
• If “the bite” had been delivered by an American or a European, would it have been such an object of ridicule on US social media? I’m not saying race had anything to do with such belittling, and Suarez has been taking plenty of heat on international sites and message boards. But that’s because international soccer fans are already familiar with him, the way Americans relate to Mello or LeBron. In the States though, Suarez yesterday was little more than bait for animal control.
• Should America’s soccer world ignorance serve as an excuse?
Instead of the incident showing the player as a freak or a punching bag, it highlights America’s myopia when it comes to the world of soccer and what is happening on the rest of the planet. Europeans and South Americans might be angry or embarrassed over what happened yesterday, knowing how big a star Suarez is and aware, also, how much owners, sponsors, networks and fans enable damaged players. Outside of America and England (where the tabloids are vicious, and Liverpool and Northern Europe is washing their hands of the Uruguayan), people might be demonizing Suarez but you don’t see them treating him like a joke.
As time went on, people in the US came to know the deeply talented Mike Tyson less as a character and more as a very troubled individual. Can you imagine this kind of frivolity if Tyson had bit a second fighter, let alone a third? And I wonder how that would seem if European or Asian brands tried to score a laugh, and some sales off it.
• As for the psychology proper, it was interesting to me how Suarez grabbed his teeth immediately after. (Here’s the video.) Maybe he strained his teeth with the bite or Chellini’s elbow caught him in the mouth, but it looked more like he caught Suarez around the eye. I’m not his therapist but in gripping his mouth, he looked to me like a guy contacting with an errant body part in a dreaded act of recognition. Even if that’s total speculation though, this post at The Mirror, highlighting former player Stan Collymore’s thoughtful tweets yesterday regarding Suarez’s mental health, gets it just right.
Luis doesn’t need the snickers, he needs help.
(photo: Ricardo Mazalan/AP. caption: Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini complains after Uruguay’s Luis Suarez ran into his shoulder with his teeth during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. illustration 2: Snickers/Twitter. illustration 3: Sharam/ Facebook)