Wednesday afternoon, go figure, produced one of the best individual performances from an athlete in 2013 when Liverpool’s Luis Suarez scored four insane goals in a 5-1 thumping of Norwich City. It’s the type of game, years from now, people will brag about “being there” at Anfield. Given enough time there’ll probably be more people claiming to have been there than the stadium’s capacity.
As talented as he is, the gushing over Suarez is held in check like a golf cart engine via a governor due to his untoward behavior that hangs over him no matter what he does. It started with his infamous handball vs. Ghana in the 2010 World Cup. That was only the tip of the iceberg compared to his headline-making controversy with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra that involved allegations of racial slurs and an eventual eight-game suspension. From there Suarez found a way to further step toward the dark side of the beautiful game, biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last April, earning himself another long spell on the sidelines.
Given his unreal current form for Liverpool, which has produced 13 goals in nine EPL games, how do we define Suarez in light of all the other issues swirling around him?
Will this GIF be his digital tombstone?
Or will it be more along the lines of this?
At some point in the conversation, Suarez’s ridiculous skill and consistent ability to score sensational, GIF-eriffic goals will overshadow his dark deeds, right? Or is the racial component in the Evra case a stain on his character Suarez will never be able to shake?
Granted this isn’t the best comparison in the world, but grant me some time to explain. Last year on the way to the NBA championship the public’s hatred of LeBron James finally seemed to subside. All the rancor and vitriol triggered from the ill-fated “Decision” seemed to wash away, well, except in Cleveland. Eventually most basketball fans realized no matter how atrocious it was to see James & Co. dancing during their introduction to Miami, he’s sort of … you know … an all-time great talent.
Often it’s hard to disassociate personality from the player. In Suarez’s case it’s especially difficult since nobody wants to openly root for someone who’s comfortable a) slurring and b) biting the opposition. Even so, as Americans an ocean away along with a language barrier, we still don’t know all that much about Suarez aside from his high-profile incidents, which probably makes it easier to vilify him. A performance like Wednesday’s makes even the most ardent anti-Suarez folks begrudgingly admit appreciation for his skill.
If we hold every player to a strict set of moral standards we’ll probably run out of guys to root for fairly quickly. Is it possible for Suarez to his star play become the No. 1 talking point over his other deeds on the soccer field? Or will that brilliance always be overshadowed? Hell, Wes Mantooth hated Ron Burgundy, but he damn well respected him by the end of “Anchorman.” (Timely reference!)
Those are questions worth exploring. Suarez will be one of the big stories as we zero-in on the World Cup in June. With the tournament held on South American soil, Uruguay is a definite outside candidate — despite their ranked status — for winning the competition thanks to stars like Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Plus Liverpool, even with Daniel Sturridge on the sidelines, could see itself back in the Champions League thanks mainly to Suarez’s surreal run of form.
To jumble up a popular phrase, hate the player, but love his game.
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