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Luis Suarez Reinforces the Need for a Handy Villain

Here's another look at "that" photo.
Here's another look at "that" photo.Clive Mason/Getty Images
Darren RudhamContributor IIJanuary 8, 2013

As a polarizing lightning rod of public opinion, whatever would we do without bad guy Luis Suarez?

From sympathy to slander, the mere whisper of Luis Alberto Suárezaz’s name is cause for spontaneous strings of euphemisms and expletives. Betwixt and between, the Uruguayan front man will forever be the child of controversy and as such, the bastard of opinion.

After his denouncement of Luis Suarez’s goal against Mansfield Town as being the “work of a cheat,” Jon Champion has reportedly been reprimanded, and ESPN issued a public apology, according to The Telegraph Sport. But Champion’s impulsive outburst is hardly unique—more the rule than the exception, really. And as a rule, there is a fundamental need for a Luis Suarez.

The flickering black and white drama that is modern football insists upon a menacing character. No guy in a top hat and cape tying helpless victims to railroad tracks? No story. Which raises the splendid irony of those who rely on the existence of villainy calling for an end to it.

In his article, “Lionel Messi make us smile – Luis Suarez shows game’s ugly new face,” James Lawton of The Independent skirts outright condemnation by pointing to the chivalrous actions of players from football’s golden age and attempts to cast Suarez further into the murky shadows by comparison to the glistening sheen of its golden boys.  

But holding up heroic examples in their naturally occurring brilliant light invites scrutiny. Robbie Fowler and Leo Messi have both been on the naughty list, and Lawton’s use of the latter is an interesting choice considering Messi’s dexterous dalliance against Espanyol in 2007.

To varying degrees, it would appear villains come in all shapes and sizes.

In his blog titled, “Luis Suarez missed his chance to improve his image,” ESPN’s Gabriele Marcotti suggests that Luis Suarez missed his chance to polish his image by failing in a stab at contrition. But no amount of polish will ever remove the buildup of tar and feathers. And for some, the stench from the bog of self-inspired folly will never fully wash off. Nor do they want it to.

So what is the expectation from Luis Suarez?

Protesting innocence is more often deemed as an admission of guilt than it is not. Defending his actions shows a lack of remorse. And those that are clamoring for an act of contrition will most likely be the first ones sharpening their knives at the slaughterhouse gate with the inevitable stumble by the sacrificial lamb.

So like Tantalus, whether he stretches for the grapes or stoops for the water, the result will be the same—he will forever be left wanting. Perhaps Luis Suarez is best served by saving his breath and his energy to do what everyone expects him to do—stay in the headlines.

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