01 July 2014

Dental or Mental? Suarez and the right to bite

Luis Suarez's bite has the world up in arms. Is he insane, or just bad-mannered?


Last week I was asked to comment on the Suarez biting affair and people seemed to expect that there would have to be some complex and cunning explanation for why he has a fondness for biting other football players. 

“What thoughts would have been going through his mind ?” I was asked.  Few if any,  I suspected.  This infantile behaviour is the sort of thing that will flourish among impulsive young men who have received more money and power than they have truly earned,  and have been indulged by those responsible for them  to the point that they feel entitled to do whatever they want without consequence. They are exactly like toddlers,  and indeed that seems to be his stage of social development,  he’s able to do as he pleases, and people either find it cute or at least thoroughly excusable. 

Read: Why does Suarez bite his opponents? 

The extent of this sense of entitlement is shown by the enormous outcry among supporters of this Hannibal Lecter of the football stadium and by the official quoted as saying that such penalties interfered with the poor bloke’s rights.  Apparently one of the gaping cavities in our otherwise widely admired Constitution is that we have not publically guaranteed the sacred Right to Bite. 

What is most deeply pathological is not the childish petulance of someone who may be brilliant at playing football but has less social skills than a toad, rather it's the swollen chorus of outrage from not merely over-excited fans but officials and other players who really ought to know better.  At any moment now Uruguay may issue a commemorative postage stamp,  the gum at the back flavoured with footballer’s sweat and perhaps even strike a medal for Suarez,  the Order of the Toothbrush?

Read: The dangers of human bites

“But he’s a marvellous footballer!“ they cry. So what? It’s rather like the people who insist that whatever the facts or the Court’s decision, Oscar Pistorius MUST be found not guilty, BECAUSE he’s a terrific athlete.  Life really doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work like that.  Being excellent at sport must no more render you immune from the ordinary laws of the land and of social behaviour  than being awfully good at mathematics or flower arranging. 

Suarez may now feel fully entitled to nibble rather than dribble and to snack on the opposition whenever he feels hungry.  Maybe we should further cater to his appetites,  and arrange for other players to wear garlands of lettuce, tomatoes and suitable herbs around their shoulders.  And why stick to plain water at half time?  What goes best with Italian shoulders?  A little Chablis or a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon? 

The Tooth, the Whole Tooth, & Nothing but the Teeth.

At the time we saw him pantomime distress, grasping his prominent teeth, and I suspected he was planning to insist that he, himself, was the real victim of the event. Now this has indeed happened. Suarez is quoted as having explained that he unfortunately slipped and fell, teeth foremost, onto the other man and was very hurt by the impact, having had no intention whatsoever of actually biting anyone. Maybe he was provoked. Maybe the other player said: “Ciao!” and Suarez mistook it for “Chow!“

He reminds me of the satire of complaints of Police brutality I heard in Britain, where the cop says in Court “Well, your Honour, the accused approached me rapidly and beat me brutally on my fist with his testicles.“

Read: Soccer is a circus, here's why

It sounds a highly unlikely form of accident,  but considering his two previous suspensions,  it would need to be at least the third time he has suffered this rare and weird form of accident.  Maybe he could receive lessons in alternative ways to fall, so as to end with a mouthful of grass rather than Italian deltoids.   

FIFA really had to take him to task about this habit of browsing on others, apparently seeing opposing teams as a buffet, or they would have been revealed as truly toothless themselves. Public mastication was bound to cause a fuss, especially when one gathers that there may have been a couple of Bicuspids in the team. 

I have a proposal to deal with the problem,  to enable him to dazzle with his foot-work,   but not his dental work.  Let Suarez play, but only when he wears a muzzle.

Read more:
Soccer beats jogging
Most gruesome soccer injuries
Soccer players and brain injury 

This article is from one of our contributors, as such, the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Health24 or its staff.

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.




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