The bite heard 'round the world

"He will do something insane at this summer's World Cup -- mark it down. ... Eventually, he'll punch a baby."

-- Toronto Star, earlier this year, on soccer star Luis Suarez.

Luis Suarez, the star striker for Uruguay (and also for Liverpool, at least as I write this) is arguably the best attacking player in international soccer today.

He also bites.


Today, playing on the planet's greatest global stage in the World Cup, under brilliant Brazilian sunlight, the dark vampire of the beautiful game struck again:

NATAL, Brazil — It seems almost impossible to consider, almost inconceivable to fathom. A soccer player, one of the best in the world, jockeys for position in a World Cup game and, at just the right moment as to be out of view of the referee, leans in to take a bite out of his opponent’s shoulder as if it were a piece of beef jerky.

Pure madness, to be sure, but wait for the unbelievable part: This was not his first in-game snack. And not his second, either. 

For the third time in the past four years, Uruguay’s star striker, Luis Suárez, appeared to bite a player on the other team when he clashed with Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini late in the second half of Uruguay’s 1-0 victory here. As in the previous two incidents, Suárez’s apparent chomp went unnoticed by the game officials. Chiellini raced toward the referee, Marco Rodriguez of Mexico, immediately afterward, pulling his jersey to the side in an effort, it seemed, to show Rodriguez the bite marks. Other Italian players also yelled at the official, who did not respond.

It turned out to be one of those many moments in life where cheaters actually do prosper. The incident happened in the 79th minute of the game, at a time when Italy (which was down a player because of a flagrant foul that the ref actually DID see) was clinging to a then-scoreless tie, which would have advanced them to the second round. Instead, the discombobulated Italians conceded a goal on a corner kick just one minute later. Suarez' antics and the lone goal held up for a 1-0 Uruguay win, which sent them to the knockout round and sent the Azzurri packing.

If you want to read a gazillion jokes about fave beans and a nice Chianti or how at least Italian players taste better than the bland English, then go on Twitter. As for me, I feel pained by Suarez' foolishness, because I recently became a big-time rooter for his English club team, Liverpool, where he just won the Premier League scoring title (although I much prefer his polite and God-fearing teammate, Daniel Sturridge). Now, I hope the rumors that he'll be sent packing to Barcelona are true. It's one thing to shake your head at his antics, it's a lot harder to root for him.

If you want to understand how one of the world's best athletes can do such stupid and self-defeating things, you should check out this amazing article by Wright Thompson in Sports Illustrated ESPN, maybe the best piece of sports journalism that I've read in years. Make sure, however, that your computer can handle more than 2 mega-bites.