This is not in defense of Luis Suarez.
If anything, this is coming to terms with the fact that great athletes are never without their sins, and more importantly, it has always been more complex than our perceived false dilemma. Clearly, there is a lot of fertile ground between black and white, and Luis Suarez was never ashamed to saunter here.
And while many of those, who erred sought the forgiveness and made good on the promise to be better, Luis Suarez seems cut from a different cloth: he appears content in letting his mortal frailties roam wild, freely, and unchecked.
So while he is heroic in fulfilling his role as a reliable scorer, his life story is that of an antihero.
Luis Suarez is comfortable in his own skin, though. It is us—the fans, the observers—who are unsettled, disappointed, displeased, and perplexed. I think it is largely because of our idealism and our hopeless effort to keep this beau idéal from eroding and unraveling, with every Luis Suarez-esque athlete we encounter shaking the glass globe until everything is blurred and fuzzy and close to breaking point.
When we say sports is a religion to many of us, a big part of it is expecting athletes to be saintly. We want them worthy of being idolized for our own selfish ends: we want to believe that we keep inside us the aspiration to become better, or at least, a semblance of it, by looking up to athletes, who have achieved great success through admirable values: hard work, diligence, persistence, optimism.
This is why it frustrates us that someone as good as Luis Suarez has allowed controversy to overshadow his superb athletic skills and his excellence in the sport he chose to master, not because he reneges on some imagined obligation to be without fault, but because every time he embraces bad behavior to serve his own ends, we are reminded that we are just as flawed, so we lash out, hoping to veil the face umasked by guilt.
This is our Luis Suarez dilemma. His journey is not the first revealing reality that exposed our sometimes twisted relationship with sports, athleticism, and idolatry. This won’t be the last.
True to what he has embraced and worn—the antihero suit—Luis Suarez will move on, so would we. And if it has always been about the here-and-now for the Uruguayan forward, everything in the past will remain in the rearview mirror especially if looking ahead is an exciting proposition, not just for him but for the fans as well:
Atletico Madrid versus FC Barcelona.
Luis Suarez will be squaring off with his former team, and it is no secret the break-up was not on good terms.
Luis Suarez brings with him the momentum and pride from his streak of 29 straight La Liga matches wherein he scored at least one goal for every game. The match against Barcelona is tinged with the color of revenge and vindication, and it is a delicious flavor, an intoxicating aroma that fans breathe in and savor regardless of their La Liga allegiance. If his streak continues and he helps Atletico Madrid defeat Barcelona, it will be a very satisfying evening at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
And knowing Luis Suarez, he will do everything he can to disappoint the Barça people, who wore the boots that kicked him off the team.
He was unapologetic celebrating at the touchline when Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty shot and Uruguay was able to advance to the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This was the first time Luis Suarez became an (infamous) household name.
Ghana could’ve won if not for Luis Suarez’s illegal defense of stopping the ball with his hand.
Ten years hence and Luis Suarez continues to add to his list of controversies. Last September, he was being investigated for allegedly cheating on his Italian language test, which he needs to pass if he wants to get an Italian passport and join a Serie A team.
By hook or by crook is not a state of desperation for Luis Suarez. It is a casual option, a privilege given only to those who have long abandoned the challenging task of walking the straight line and taking the higher road. Infallible by design. Machiavellian by choice.
By hook AND by crook.
Luis Suarez is one unique apple. Not everyone is willing to take a bite.