Tom Clyde: Nibbling at World Cup
I can’t get into the World Cup. I’ve got family members who are passionate about soccer, played in college, and follow every game. One even claims to understand the point system that determines how teams advance in the tournament. She is a math major, and is probably just showing off. I just can’t get interested in it.
Sports on TV are mostly useful as a backdrop to pace a Saturday afternoon nap. Soccer is entirely too loud for napping, and way too boring for watching. Even though there is nothing of any consequence happening on the field, there is a constant roar of the crowd. Baseball, which is possibly even less interesting than soccer, has the same thing. The people in the stadium are just roaring for no apparent reason. At least the people at golf tournaments have the courtesy to speak in hushed tones so they don’t interrupt a good nap.
The best television for napping is the home improvement genre. There are few things as satisfying as settling into the couch for a good nap with a home remodeling show on. While I get a refreshing snooze in, somebody else will have insulated, wired, and dry-walled an entire basement, or replaced the shingles on a complicated roof. The satisfaction of a job well done, combined with the nap, makes for a great afternoon.
Soccer, even at the World Cup, falls short on all of those. Too boring to watch, too noisy to nap through, and nobody is getting any work done on the house, yard, or junk cars in the meantime. So I had pretty well written the World Cup off.
And then this happened. In a game between Italy and Uruguay, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez ran up behind Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini and bit him on the shoulder. That’s right. He took a bite out of his shoulder. This was not some inadvertent tooth-to-shoulder contact in a mass tumble to the ground. No, the video shows very clearly that Suarez ran up behind Chiellini and bit his shoulder like a Doberman.
Well, now, soccer may be more interesting than I had thought. Maybe it’s time to give it a second chance. Despite the miracle of opposable thumbs, in soccer, players cannot use their hands. They can use their feet, heads, knees, and about anything else to direct the ball, but not their hands. Teeth appear to be something of a gray area. People familiar with the rules say that biting another player is a breach of decorum, but not expressly prohibited. Others say it’s the World Cup, and if biting the neck of an opposing player and sucking his blood is what it takes to win, well, then get to it.
It’s quite the scandal because Suarez apparently has a history of biting other players. He was suspended for seven games in 2010 for taking a chunk out of another player. Again in 2013 he received a 10 game suspension for sinking his teeth into somebody else. And now on the World Cup stage, he does it again.
In keeping with a long-standing tradition in the soccer world, the referee took no action against Suarez, who continued to play despite the flesh caught in his teeth, until Uruguay defeated Italy 1-0, which knocked Italy out of the competition. In a post-game interview, Suarez reportedly said that Chiellini "tastes like chicken." League officials are now reviewing the incident, and may take disciplinary action — on a schedule that does not interfere with World Cup play.
As for Chiellini, the photos of his shoulder don’t look too gruesome. There was no blood, and the bite didn’t break the skin. This was not like when Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear and spit it out on the floor. It may have been something of a nibble, but it doesn’t appear to have been a real, sink your teeth into it, kind of bite. In the photos online, and there are lots of them, it’s hard to see even a scratch. Dramatically staging fake injuries is a long soccer tradition. But it’s pretty hard to fake being bit. Maybe somebody got a closer look at Chiellini’s shoulder.
In news of other things that bite, why is it that we have construction blocking both S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 at the same time? UDOT is repaving at Kimball, forcing traffic out 248 to avoid that mess. Then the movie studio/Target store is simultaneously ripping up 248, narrowing that back to one lane. There’s no coordination, no effort to get things moving smoothly at the end of the day rush. Traffic couldn’t be more messed up if we tried. Is it too much to ask that the orange barrels on 248 get moved out of the way by 4 o’clock?
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.