By Andi Thomas and Alex Netherton
No, we’re not going to talk about it.
Instead, we’re going to talk about Tottenham, and Manchester City, and Andre Villas-Boas. It turns out that the Iberian sexpot with a voice like a pepper-grinder is quite good at this management business: his substitutions changed first the shape of his team, then the dynamic of the entire game. Particular praise is due to Tom Huddlestone, who neatly demonstrated that moving your body around a lot is all well and good, Scott Parker, but it’s better to be able to move the ball.
His opposite number Roberto Mancini, meanwhile, brought on own-brand winger Scott Sinclair, then deployed Joleon Lescott up front, the first time a dirty protest has been broadcast on national television. It just goes to show that LUIS SUAREZ BIT BRANISLAV IVANOVIC! HE BIT HIM ON THE ARM! WITH HIS TEETH!
Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, Tottenham’s win, along with Arsenal’s win over Fulham and Chelsea’s draw against Liverpool—careful—mean that the Race For A Higher Level Of Television Income Next Season is tighter than the CLENCHED JAW OF A DERANGED SAVAGE USING THE TEETH IN HIS FACE TO WORRY THE ARM OF A FELLOW PROFESSIONAL, LIKE A SQUIRREL WITH A HEADACHE SAVAGING A WILLOW TREE!
Dammit. Down the bottom of the table, QPR are now so buggered that even Harry Redknapp has come to terms with the fact that his magical powers of escapology may not shield him from at least some of the responsibility. (Joke: of course they will.) But for a man who was once so keen to serve his country, his team’s failure to beat Stoke represents the very worst dereliction of duty. We’re trying to make the world a better place here, Harry, and it’s time you started pulling your weight. Or have you bitten off more than you can CHEW CHEW CHEW CHEW CHEW! ON IVANOVIC’S ARM! WITH THE TEETH IN HIS FACE! WHAT’S HE DOING? WHY IS HE DOING THAT?
Gah! Sorry! Right! Something else…Paolo di Canio did some celebrating, as Everton did some capitulating. If only Thatcher had dropped in a couple of knee slides towards the end, she could have gone to her grave in peace. Wigan are still in trouble, though such is the power of their reputation that should they go down, nobody will actually notice, and they’ll still end up in next season’s preview supplements. Andy Carroll, meanwhile, continues to refine his own brand of equine berzerkery to a sharp point, AS SHARP AS THE FROTHING INCISORS OF LUIS SUAREZ AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HE BIT HIM! WHAT?
FOR THE SECOND TIME IN HIS CAREER!
Okay, okay, okay. We’ll talk about it. There is an odd dynamic to the outrage in which we are swimming, a kind of blanket insistence on the moralistic absolute. This would obviously be appropriate for something like, say, racial abuse, which is still getting caviled and caveated into irrelevance by the remarkably white world of football journalism. It’s been a good day for the words “claimed”, and “alleged” and “controversial”, and for the placing of scare quotes around the words “racial abuse”, and for neatly eliding or completely overlooking Suarez’s own admissions regarding the matter. Perhaps nobody likes being shouted at by Liverpool fans. Or perhaps nobody cares.
Everybody cares about this, though. Really and certainly cares, with a white-hot sense of righteousness that feel deeply incongruous. Because as well as being an act for for which he should have been sent off, and as well as being an act for which he will be banned, it was (and still is) very, very funny. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but then, we don’t make the rules. The prevailing tone of fatally-twisted knickers is out of step with the honest response.
Part of the humour comes from the oddity of the thing. Biting is transgressive in a way that more straightforward and traditional forms of violence aren’t. It’s objectively worse to break somebody’s leg than chew on their bicep, but it’s a lot less peculiar. Kicking one another is what footballers do; biting is reserved for vampires in fairy stories, junkies in American news items, and Hannibal Lecter.
Another part comes from the fact that this is Suarez, for whom the second half—gorgeous assist, stupid handball, quick munch on an opponent, poached winner—was more-or-less a best-of, though thankfully he decided not to gob off at Ryan Bertrand. This is not to say it’s a good thing to be doing, or to argue that Suarez won’t deserve the lengthy ban that’s coming his way. It’s just to acknowledge that it’s possible to shake your head and laugh at the same time. Human beings are not binary creatures.
Things, as they are wont to do, are happening. Opinion pieces are falling out of the internet, most of them insisting Liverpool have to sell; this makes little to no sense considering that the last time he did this, they bought him. Graeme Souness is condemning onfield violence, apparently without irony. The PFA have offered him anger management counselling, which of course worked so well for Joey Barton. Suarez, for his part, apologized to Ivanovic immediately—well, no, he apologised later in the evening; his immediate reaction was to feign a limp—and then made sure his
sponsors Twitter followers were aware that he was disgusted by his own behaviour. Patrice Evra is still waiting.
One question remains tantalisingly unanswered: How on earth did Ivanovic resist the urge to lamp him?