When is a dive not a dive?
Perhaps it’s when Luis Suarez has been tripped in the penalty area, drops to the floor, and screams like someone might do in a horror film but is in fact physically fine, at which point everyone shouts at each other for a while. It’s a dive, but yes, it’s also not—the contact was ‘real’, the foul may well have ‘existed’ and the penalty probably should be given. Who cares though? It was technically wrong that Suarez didn’t get a penalty last week at Norwich, but, as a one off, it’s okay to not care. Despite all the theatrics, it ain’t no tragedy.
You see, in a tragedy, the audience feels for the protagonist because they have a flaw which, in the end, sees them lose everything. Macbeth in the eponymous play is overly ambitious and, as a result, gets a bit dead. In Suarez’s case, however, the flaw is his entire personality rather than one aspect of it, and the ‘downfall’ is in fact a light tumble on a relatively soft surface. Which part of that are you supposed to get on board with—the minimal impact that his being a cheat actually makes or the part where he isn’t very nice?
Suarez is The Boy Who Cried Wolf, not Macbeth. Or, more specifically, Suarez is the narcissist who screamed “Help me, I am on the floor. No, it’s not a real injury but my sense of entitlement is so great that even when no-one has done anything wrong to me I feel hard done by.” You want referees to make right decisions in a general sense, but after two seasons of rolling around and screaming it’s definitely okay not to care that the men with the whistles don’t care. It’s actually a little bit funny.
And wouldn’t it be nice to see Suarez and Liverpool see the situation similarly—or at least not attempt to portray Suarez as perpetually hard-done-by. “Luis is a wonderful talent. If he goes down in the area, it is a penalty. But from what I have seen so far, it looks like he is not going to get a decision,” Brendan Rodgers, his manager, said a couple of weeks ago, skilfully knocking back the idea that if Suarez is getting treated unfairly by referees it’s because he’s been diving, whining and ‘exaggerating contact’ for the last two years. Rodgers isn’t missing the point; he’s refusing to see it. Because, as usual, self-interest reigns. This is only a great injustice for those who want it to be.
And Liverpool’s reaction makes it even more alright to laugh. Rodgers went to imply, toys-out-of-pram style, he might have ask his players to dive in order to get penalties. ‘Petty’ doesn’t quite do it.
Not that Rodgers didn’t have a little bit of a point. To dive or not to dive is a serious question, in football and in life. It affects us all. I was walking through Birmingham City centre just this afternoon and was clipped by a fellow shopper. After shouting obscenities into their face I was faced with a proper decision: take a tumble or hope the ref would see it anyway. I chose the latter option and regretted it slightly, I have to say. You just never know which way it’s going to go.
While I don’t want to turn this whole thing into a personal sob-story, I do, like Suarez, feel like my reputation precedes me. I took a tumble a couple of months ago just outside the large Gap store in Birmingham; it was a genuine slip, but I’m quite sure people have been looking at me funny ever since then. It could be paranoia, but I think a homeless man who saw the incident shouted “diving wanker” at me today.
It might just have been a “wanker”, but like I say, I’m quite sure. And seeing it from the inside, whereby me and my friends have actually had to discuss whether or not to start going down, I realised that Suarez and Liverpool did have a point. Not being taken seriously because you may have gone down too easily in the past—and I’m not saying I did—is difficult to take.
But it doesn’t make for a tragedy. You don’t have to care. And you are allowed to laugh at Suarez not getting penalties.