This article arrived via slow boat from China. Our apologies to its author, Columnist Scott:
After waiting patiently for our budding blogger, Cole, to complete an essay on the provenance and pop-culture importance of Cracker Jack for a second-grade project, I was finally able to sit beside my little scribe and his little sister to watch the most anticipated handshake since that of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.
Such was the media glare concerning the pre-game ritual, intensified by remarks from both teams which were capped by Kenny Dalglish's insistence that tradition would be observed, that even my wife Liz insisted I pause the previously-recorded game to allow her to join the family for a lesson in sportsmanship, prior to what would surely be Liverpool's return to the upper echelon of English football. (And, yes, I enjoy writing sentences that long to drive farlieonfootie crazy).
Instead, Luis Suarez embarrassed himself, his team, his manager and his fans by refusing to acknowledge the hand of Patrice Evra, even after promising that he would. I've written on these pages before about how difficult it can be to support a team with a villain and that, based on all the history and evidence, I believe Suarez did, indeed, racially abuse Evra. Still, I was hoping beyond hope that the polemic Uruguayan would suck it up, shake a hand and get on with it, so that we Liverpool fans could feel good, without reservation, about cheering for our beloved team. But now, instead of seeing Suarez as the tireless, creative spark he can be, I'm back to viewing him as the World Cup cheat who goes down way too easily and, now, is masochistically obstinate about moving beyond his ill-conceived racial remarks.
He clearly believes he did nothing worthy of a suspension, but that doesn't matter now. And if he felt that strongly, then he should have challenged the ruling before, rather than force me to rewind three times and then have a 10 minute discussion about sportsmanship and race with an eight year old and a five year old. Ultimately, I had to conclude, with two innocent children inquiring up at me, that even though we support Liverpool, and there are many great and "good" players on the team, Luis Suarez made a bad decision and needs to learn from it.
That learning opportunity behind us, I then half-heartedly watched Liverpool lose in a most ungraceful manner. With the United fans dishing out the boos to Suarez every time he touched the ball, just as Evra received at Anfield, the away Reds managed to get to halftime level at nil-nil but without creating any real chances -- save Glen Johnson's near miss -- and the cracks were beginning to show. Even the normally reliable Jose Enrique was being schooled by the on-fire Antonio Valencia. At the halftime whistle, Suarez threw gas on the fire by petulantly kicking the ball out of bounds, which set the stage for some commotion in the tunnel between the two teams and further discussion with my children about good sportsmanship.
Two minutes into the second half, Karma reared its head when Wayne Rooney volleyed in from a corner. Then, three minutes later, after a careless Jay Spearing give-away in the defensive third led to Wayne's second goal, whatever fight was left in Liverpool leaked out as they treaded water for the following 10 minutes before collapsing into a defensive posture. When Suarez was gifted a goal near the 80th minute, Liverpool shrugged off their torpor and created several close calls in the closing minutes but it was too little, too late.
But it wasn't too late for another lesson in sportsmanship as the game was turning into an after-school special with boundless learning opportunities. Ceding the moral high ground was the next topic in our schedule of family discussions after Evra blatantly, purposely and ostentatiously celebrated directly in front of Suarez, seemingly seeking him out. While there was nothing technically wrong with celebrating a victory, the manner and location of the celebration combined to blow away much of the rosy smell that Evra was enjoying up to that point.
That is not to confuse the real instigator here. It was Suarez who made the racist remark(s) and it was he who stupidly (no other adverb will do) refused the handshake. We would have moved on much sooner without the latter of those two poor decisions. I'm probably just as angry as Dalglish must have been - put in the position of defending his player, receiving certain assurances and then being betrayed. I would despise Suarez if he were on another team. And, as it is, I really don't like him.
But wait, there's more - After-School Special Part II, if you will. A day later Suarez issues an apology containing all the right words, but probably pummeled out of him by a finally-chagrinned Dalglish, Standard Chartered and Fenway Sports Group. This second act allowed our family to have a discussion about how an apology, particularly after an especially grievous act or after a second or third chance, is only the first step. Trust and true forgiveness must then be earned by actions thereafter. Here's hoping that Suarez is smarter than a second grader.