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A contrary view of the Suarez bite: Get over it and play on

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: June 25, 2014 - 1:45 PM

Almost all of the outrage about Uruguay's Luis Suarez apparently taking a bite out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the 1-0 loss, which knocked the Italians out of the World Cup, has focused on what Suarez did.

Here's an opposing point of view: A former newspaper sports reporter in Worthington, Minn., Daniel Kerwin writes that he "was born in the sports-crazed land of Australia and endured the ups and downs of sports fandom while being raised on four different continents before most recently settling in Tokyo, Japan, where he teaches English." He is a graduate of Macalester College.

Here's what Kerwin posted on his Facebook page after the game:

The issue here isn't IF Suarez bit Chiellini during Uruguay's game vs. Italy, regardless if it was through malicious intent or not. I'm more interested in looking at this through an anthropologist's perspective of how people are reacting to it.

A world-class soccer player, in a sport that isn't completely lacking in physical contact, gets some teeth marks (not breaking the skin, no blood) in his shoulder late in a closely contested game. His reaction: Immediately fall to the floor and start complaining to anyone who will listen, proudly showing off to anyone who is within range "Look! He really bit me! It ACTUALLY happened! I have little bite marks in my shoulder!!!"

Whether related or not, his team immediately gives up a goal, which seals its elimination from the tournament.

This is what really gets me about professional athletes sometimes: The whole "Referee! Referee! Kiss my boo-boo and make it better! That bad, bad person over there caused me irreparable harm!" reaction, while the energy expended in this reaction proves that the player is actually perfectly fit and healthy, and sometimes is showing greater energy protesting than they have shown actually playing the sport itself during the game.

I'd MUCH rather see the player say "OK, so I got some bite marks - I'm a professional athlete playing in a close game, I'm gonna shake it off, go out there and do everything I can to win, then show off the bite marks after the game to prove that it didn't faze me... If the referee sees the incident and decides to do something, cool - my team just benefited. If not, let's go win this game by ACTUALLY playing the game."

Think of how revered athletes become when they overcome an injury and come up with a clutch play - I'd much rather try to be remembered for producing something like that than "Oh, he's the guy that got bitten and complained a lot about it."

I understand the tactical advantage of suckering the referee into giving your team as many free kicks and penalty kicks, and the other team as many red cards, as possible - but come on! Play the game with AT LEAST a bit of honor. Get up after you're taken down, and after that if you can't stay up, and keep going, THEN we'll say "OK, I guess you're hurt pretty bad, we accept your complaining."

If you immediately fall down and start rolling around without showing any signs of trying to suck it up, don't expect us to take you seriously.

As for the media - a la CNN's Rachel Nichols saying "he tried to EAT him!" OK, I get that the media has to overreact to things to draw an audience to their product, but that is a HUGE overreaction. I accept that Mike Tyson literally tearing off flesh from Evander Holyfield is a pretty egregious act, but in no way does this deserve to be treated on the same level. And I get that Suarez hasn't done himself any favors by tarnishing his reputation with past biting incidents, and if he gets suspended for this bite, he has no one to blame but himself.

But to every pundit treating this as a heinous crime and screaming for his head, get over it.

In sports, things happen - players get kicked in the face and get their noses broken (Clint Dempsey against Ghana), which is much more serious than a couple of superficial bite marks on someone's shoulder. I get that a kick to the face can be purely incidental, whereas biting is less likely to be incidental, but physical contact is physical contact. It happens. Play on.

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