Luis Suarez, £30m, and the cost of cognitive dissonance

F. Scott Fitzgerald once claimed that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. So it is with sports-fans. We love the lads who play for us and forgive, overlook, ignore, or justify their sins on and off the pitch. We jeer those who play for others, perceiving, imagining, and inventing transgressions ranging from cheatiness on the pitch to buggery and worse off of it. Or on it. I don’t know. As news came out that we had launched a ludicrous bid for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, I (and, I imagine, many others) probably felt a moral tugging. On one hand, we have a man who has bitten not one, but two opponents; used his hands more egregiously than a frotteur on a subway; and who was convicted of racial abuse. Even if there are extenuating circumstances in one or two of these situations, it raises the question: how many dazzling feats of athleticism are enough to create a fig leaf to cover those offenses? 

Before being sent off for gnawing on Ivanovic, Suarez was, after all, on pace to win the Golden Boot. At the time, he had 23 goals to van Persie’s 21, who finished with 26. Of course, he missed the last four games of the season, which ends the argument over whether he could have held on. At any rate, with Suarez all but sure to leave Liverpool, there are plenty of clubs salivating over his services (what? wrong verb? Fine: drooling). However, it seems highly unlikely, given his complaints over the British media’s treatment of him, that he’d come to London, the epicenter of the media circus. He’d be better served leaving the league altogether, as he did after his first biting incident led to leaving Ajax and the Eredivisie. I’m hoping, then, that this is just a bluff in our poker-game with Real Madrid over Higuain. If they’re holding out for a little more money, the message from us might be, we’ll just go out and sign someone else altogether. I’m not sure I see the logic there, thoughif we’re willing to throw £30m around for Suarez, surely we can find £25-27m for Higuain?

Whether we’re serious about signing Suarez is a matter for those smarter than I to analyze. I do feel like I can answer the question of whether we should, and I come to a resounding “no” and do so pretty quickly. The cognitive dissonance required (he’s a dirtbag/he’s a goal-scoring machine) is too much for me to bear. I know that we have some in our squad who might benefit from a trip to the confessional and few, if any, are shortlisted for sainthood. However, the idea that I might have to defend each goal from Suarez by saying something like “well, race is different in Uruguay. He probably just used Uruguayan slang for ‘black’ and Evra got confused” or “the footage is too grainy and we all know what a whiner Ivanovic is”? No way.  It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

No thank you. I know that a certain arrogance, a ruthlessness, is sometimes part of what drives an athlete to greatness. However, Suarez has too much of this, or not enough self-awareness. If the moral argument doesn’t sway you, consider the strategic. Twelve yellow cards in 2012-13. Twelve games missed to suspensions in 2012-13 (eight for racial abuse, four for the bite). He’ll miss the first six games of the season. When he does return, we’re going to have to worry about his next card for simulation. We’re going to have to worry about his next biting. He claimed that he “lost it” against Chelsea. Teams are going to bait him and bait him until he takes that bait. He might not bite, but he’s going to lash out in one way or another, and his next suspension might rightly be more than the 10 he got for biting Ivanovic.

I’m a big believer in second chances and redemption. I’m just not willing to let our club offer that chance. There are others will fewer philosophic ideals and more ducats than we. I’m open to Rooney. Still wary of Fellaini. I’m dead-set against Suarez, and I’ll maintain that position even if he goes on to score against us while playing for whoever he’s playing for next year. There. I said it. Victoria Concordia Crescit still means something around here, and I doubt this motto would resonate much with Suarez.

Last but not least, this blog has been nominated as a “Best New Arsenal Blog” in the YAMAs 2012-13 survey. I hope you’ll consider casting your ballot for Woolwich 1886.  Thanks!

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