Soccer Bites

In Tuesday’s World Cup game between Uruguay and Italy, Uruguay’s star player, Luis Suarez, approached an Italian player from behind and bit him on the shoulder.  The Italian player, not surprisingly, reacted instinctively to the pain of the chomp by swinging his shoulder away and bringing his arm in contact with Suarez’s head.

It being soccer, both players fell to the ground in hopes of getting a penalty.  (Can you imagine how LeBron James would react if a player guarding him bit him on the shoulder?  I don’t think his first instinct would be to fall to the ground.  This is one reason why many Americans find soccer so bizarre.)

There’s no doubt that Suarez was the aggressor, or that he intentionally bit the Italian.  The incident was caught on video; the YouTube clip is below.  Weirdly, this is the third time Suarez has bitten someone in a soccer game.  Other than Mike Tyson, I’ve never before heard of an adult athlete biting another adult athlete during a sporting event.  Suarez has a history of other bad conduct, including making racist comments to an opposing player.

Psychologists consulted by the BBC in response to one of Suarez’s earlier biting incidents say that biting is the product of frustration and primitive, emotional impulses, which is why it is relatively common in children but so rare in adults; tension builds, and the tension is released with a bite.  That’s what psychologists say, but I think adult biting suggests much more deep-seated issues.  A rude gesture, or even a punch, I can understand — but a bite is a more personal and injurious act.  And when you think about how many germs can be found in the human mouth, a bite is far more disgusting and invasive.

They’re talking about whether Suarez should be suspended for the bite, and if so for how long.  That’s a pertinent topic, but I think it’s missing the bigger issue.  After three bites, plus a suspension for racist abuse, this guy clearly needs some serious help.  He’s obviously dangerous to others, and if he can’t control his biting tendencies, how can he be trusted to control whatever other impulses he might be experiencing?

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