I’m a huge fan of international soccer, and I’m thrilled today that the USA has advanced into the knockout stages, probably to play Belgium. A fine squad, and formidable challenge. We’ll have our work cut out for us. I hope we stand tall, win or lose, and acquit ourselves well.
Today I wanted to write a little bit about Luis Suarez. The footballer for Uruguay, one of the greatest living players. Who also bites his opponents from time to time. It’s baffling and inexplicable. Especially his bite against Italy; there was no fight, no scuffle. No apparent war-of-words. He simply, late in the game, zeroed in on an Italian player and lunged, biting his shoulder.
I feel sorry for Suarez. Someone who, as an adult, habitually bites other adults (this is the third offense in his professional career) is clearly suffering from some sort of strange instability. What kind, of course, I can’t possibly know. But biting is especially a strange offense. It seems bestial and juvenile at the same time. Adults don’t fight like that. And Suarez wasn’t even fighting. He seems to simply have had some red rage descend and lost his clarity. Biting unaccountably.
But I understand strange compulsions. I’m a person well-acquainted with the inability to exercise appropriate, mature control. I drank when I shouldn’t have. I drank too much when it was acceptable to drink some. I did things when I drank that I knew were wrong, and I did things when I was sober that I knew were wrong in order to be able to drink in peace. I am a person who cut myself and bruised myself intentionally for no reason that I have ever come to truly understand deeply.
I’m not intending to say that this gives me any insight into what makes Suarez do what he does. It doesn’t. I’m as baffled and perplexed as anyone. But I understand doing things I know are wrong. I understand lashing out in strange ways. I understand the actions that seem to take themselves, and me along with them, rather than arising of any kind of personal agency. And so I feel sorry for Luis Suarez. Because I know how difficult it was for me to overcome that strange compulsive behavior.
But no matter what pity I feel for him, I am pleased that FIFA has banned him from the World Cup. People who cannot control their behavior, no matter what the underlying pathology, are appropriately excluded from interacting with others in environments where they’ve proven to be disruptive. Sometimes, that exclusion is the catalyst to change. I know that it has been for many of the alcoholics and addicts that I’ve known and worked with. Whether it will stir contemplation in Suarez remains, of course, unknown.
I believe that people driven to behave as Suarez has are suffering. I believe that there is usually relief for them. But it requires seeking relief. It requires believing relief exists. And it requires willingness to see ourselves as the source of our trouble, rather than externalizing our difficulties. I hope that Suarez finds that willingness.