Every good story needs a villain.
If there has been one disappointment in this thrilling season – an early exit from both the Champions League and the FA Cup don’t count as disappointments; consider them a cosmic tax on all the good things that have happened – it is the lack of a good counterpoint, someone malevolent and conspiring, someone skilled enough, someone determined enough to threaten all of our hopes and dreams. Harry Potter must have his Voldemort, Luke Skywalker his Darth Vader, Milton’s Adam and Eve must be hounded by Lucifer’s Rebel Angels. No bad guy to vanquish, and the narrative arc is ruined: you may have success, but you’ll never know Victory.
Which is why I love Luis Suarez.
All of our old nemeses have gone, at least for this season. Admit it: it’s not nearly as much fun taking pleasure in United settling into the soft brown ooze of mid-table ignominy with their current brain trust manning the ship, as it would have been had Sir Alex been at the helm. For years David Moyes roamed the sidelines for Everton, square jawed and steely eyed, and we assumed he was filled with Grit and Indomitable Spirit. Eight months in at Old Trafford, and that same expression fairly screams, “Did I leave the iron on at home? I think I left the iron on!” His guilty, stooped shouldered sulk into the stands during City’s most recent evisceration of the Red Devils, a lap dog who’d just done a Bad Thing on the living room carpet, brought no joy, no visceral sense of triumph, to City supporters. Afterward, he actually expressed admiration for City’s style on the pitch! There was no defiance, no rancor, no “noisy neighbors”dismissiveness to stir our outrage. Overawed and submissive, he might as well have been managing Torquay United.
It’s a far cry from May 2012, when Dzeko and Aguero and the boys were fashioning a miracle, and, split screen, we were watching Fergie, all manic gum chewing and burst capillaries, wandering disbelieving in Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, doing an impromptu one man version of “Downfall”. It was a glorious moment, a deeply satisfying moment, heroes accomplishing the improbable on one side of our television screens, the source of all of our misery and woe set to stew in humiliation on the other. Every good story needs a villain.
Fergie’s gone, replaced by a grocery clerk. José Mourinho for a moment looked like a worthy adversarial successor. He was dismissive and outrageous, and his team of plucky ponies seemed a serious threat. But like Chelsea itself, The Special One is a mere pretender, a caricature, not a real threat. With his Arafat beard and his open collar shirts under Armani suits and his penchant for talking crazy talk, Mourinho looks increasingly like the second runner-up in a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lookalike contest. His Mussolini pout doesn’t help.
That leaves Liverpool. (The other “top clubs” are nothing much: Wenger, like his club, just seems tired, and really was never the kind of manager to stir more than quiet respect in his opponents. Poor Spurs, twirling in Bedlam, have pinned their hopes and dreams to the back of one Emmanuel Adebayor, which from most City supporters can only elicit a mixture of commiseration and pity. Everton is soaring high on goofus dust and positive feelings; there’s nothing dark and villainous rising from Goodison Park).
Brendan Rodgers, Boy Wonder, is all Earnestness and Sincerity. Rooting against him is like loudly expressing your hatred of the color beige. Steven Gerrard is, literally, an altar boy: Sure, he may sneak the odd sip from the sacramental wine and get into the occasional scrap, but he’s a decent enough lad. Between them, they generate as much passion in their opponents’ supporters as a large bowl of mashed potatoes.
Every good story needs a villain. Finally, at the end of this long season, Fate’s tumblers have turned and everything is in place. The poseurs, the pretenders, the Unreadys, are a low background rumble. It is Liverpool and City, Sky Blue against Scarlet, our heroes massed against the last obstacle to Victory. It is Us versus Luis Suarez.
Ah, Luis Suarez! El Gran Mordedor. Lemur eyed Suarez, with his Peter Lorre shiftiness and his uncanny knack for scoring goals. Conniving Suarez, the man who shamelessly put forth “El Mano del Diablo” in the 2010 World Cup, effectively eliminating loveable underdogs Ghana from the competition, utterly graceless in victory, cackling in triumph as Asamoah Gyan’s penalty deflected off the crossbar. Bigot Suarez, whose benighted view of race relations (“I don’t speak to Black people”) makes one wonder if UKIP has opened an office in Montevideo. Suarez, talented, scheming, contemptible Suarez, a villain worthy of Milton, or at least Rowling. This is our new Fergie. This is the man we need to vanquish.
I just hope he doesn’t take a bite out of David Silva when we do.
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