Monday, June 30, 2014

Culture Bites

Luis Suarez is down and out of the great American game of soccer and must endure a four months suspension. Headbutts and punches incur shorter suspensions, smaller fines, and less general ire. Why does biting incite widespread anger and derision (and long suspensions) everywhere (except, perhaps, in Uruguay)?

Maybe because it involves saliva, an internal part of the body, germs, the unclean? Is it because it is a childish act? Is it because it involves teeth and conjures up images of vampirism and its concomitant eroticism?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ban Luis Suarez For Life: Not For Biting but Because He's a Cheat

Another incident involving Luis Suarez's teeth and an opponent's body has thrown the entire soccer establishment into turmoil.

Many, including Roberto Martinez and Alexi Lalas, say it's sad and that Luis Suarez needs help. True. Others, such as ESPN's Taylor Twellman, argues that biting is a disgrace and Suarez merits a lifetime ban.

In my opinion, the biting is comical, sad, and unfortunate. And Suarez deserves some sort of sanction for going McGruff The Crime Dog on Chiellini yesterday.

But if he deserves a lifetime ban it is for his consistent, willful attempts to undermine the integrity of the game by cheating. His intentional handball on the goal line during the last World Cup is only one example. His constant diving and embellishment, scoring by handling the ball, whining and complaining to the referee, racially insult opponents are all behaviors that unfairly and deceptively do harm to the credibility of the sport. What he does on a regular basis is no better than what Armstrong did to cycling or what Charles Van Doren did to TV quiz shows.

So if Suarez is kicked out of soccer, I won't shed a tear. But I'd prefer FIFA do it because of the way he has consistently behaved over his entire career instead of for occasionally mistaking an opponent's arm or neck for the buffet at Chuck-A-Rama.

Monday, June 23, 2014

FIFA Corruption? Well, It Is a Business….

John Oliver's send up of FIFA and the World Cup has made the rounds on Internet and even led some of my relatives to conclude that it's not ethical to watch the tournament (you can watch it online here). Oliver's bit is funny and clever--especially the religion comparison. I used to get worked up about this kind of thing in a similar way with the IOC. And yes, it's deplorable. But it's small potatoes. Other huge multinationals make so much more money and exercise so much more influence than FIFA. See this list, for example:

Kuper and Szymanskanski's book Soccernomics begins by comparing Real Madrid, the richest club in the world, with a small cement company in Texas that no one has ever heard of but that is worth more than RM. The soccer team is more visible and so an easy target for both praise and criticism. But I am fairly certain all these big corporations have deals with Brazil (tax breaks, deals on exploitation of natural resources, or wage agreements for employees, etc.). The smart thing to do would be to show FIFA as a window into the way other corporations likely exploit Brazil, the rain forests, the state, etc. And how Brazil uses the World Cup for its own political purposes