Scott D. Pierce: Television keeps athletes honest except for Luis Suarez
It's 2014, and you'd think that word would have gotten out to pro athletes that their games are televised.
You'd think that Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suarez would have realized that when he bit Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in World Cup play, it would be caught by the cameras. You'd think that, with clear video evidence of his wrongdoing, no one would try to defend his actions.
You'd be wrong about that. Suarez continues to enjoy the support of not just his coach and his teammates, but seemingly the population of Uruguay. He returned home to a hero's welcome, and the country's president, Jose Mujicam, blasted FIFA as "old sons of b" and called the penalties against Suarez "fascist."
That's crazy, but is it any crazier than some Real Salt Lake fans calling Luke Mulholland's studs-up challenge on Saturday against Chivas USA and subsequent red card a "soft" call?
The TV replay was quite clear that it was anything but. So the only real difference is a matter of degree.
(Although Mulholland's errant challenge had the potential to do a lot more damage than Suarez's bite.)
The fact is that without the video evidence, Suarez would not have received the severe penalties suspended from nine international matches; suspended from even practicing with his club team, Liverpool, for four months; and fined $112,000.
Despite the fact that the whole world saw him bite, Suarez tried to excuse his way out of it. His defense was laughable "I lost my balance and that de-stablized my body and I fell into my opponent."
(He has issued a half-hearted apology, which seems to have more to do with his potential move to Barcelona FC than anything else.)
Were it not for the video, Suarez could have gotten away with it. Remember, he wasn't penalized during the match. But he got what he deserved, ridiculous excuses aside.
Suarez is the world's best-known biter, but he's not the only athlete who thinks he can deny reality and talk his way out of penalties. American football fans no doubt recall Detroit defensive tackle Ndamakong Suh stomping on Green Bay offensive lineman Even Dietrich-Smithin a Thanksgiving game in 2011. Suh was tossed out of the game, fined and suspended.
But even though millions saw it on TV, Suh denied he'd done anything wrong, insisting "My intentions were not to kick anybody." A year later, he kicked Houston QB Matt Schaub in the groin and, again, denied he'd had any intention to do so.
Because of the clear video replays, Suh didn't get away with it. Although you could argue that if his punishment had been as severe as Suarez's, maybe Suh would not have repeated his dangerous behavior on several occasions.
Or maybe not. It came as no surprise to anyone who follows soccer between World Cups that Suarez had a history of biting opponents. His two previous teeth attacks were also caught on video and resulted in lengthy suspensions.
What's shocking is that Suarez would do it again. That he'd do it with the full knowledge that multiple cameras were following every move the players made.
What the cameras couldn't see was Suarez's state of mind. And given that he's bitten opponents in full view of the cameras three times, that must be where the real problem lies.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
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