Gothic folklore met modern dentistry, with the whole world watching.
This was the World Cup and the Bite of Brazil – a mouthwatering, open-jawed, succulent chomp on an unsuspecting victim that would have done proud any vampire worth his cape.
Perhaps odder things happened in sports in 2014, but for sheer audacity, and on a global stage no less, the bite by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez takes the (temporary porcelain) crown.
Uruguay was playing Italy in June, each looking to reach the round of 16. Suarez, one of soccer’s top scorers, nuzzled up to Giorgio Chiellini late in the game and suddenly, inexplicably sunk his teeth into the shoulder of the Italian defender as if he were a dish of veal piccata.
The two fell to the turf. A baffled Chiellini – unable to ward off the vampiric attack for lack of a mirror or garlic clove – displayed for an entire stadium evidence of fang marks. He lowered his shirt sleeve and, like a Hollywood starlet from a bygone era, bared his shoulder. Suarez, meanwhile, held his upper teeth while on the ground as if he were a patient in a chair and assisting a dental technician taking X-rays.
Suarez, it turns out, has a long oral history. This was the third time in four years he bit an opponent.
At first, he denied biting Chiellini, saying he lost his balance and tumbled. He also said Chiellini hit him in the eye earlier in the match. He also said Chiellini pushed his shoulder into the Uruguayan’s mouth. He said many things.
Uruguay won the game 1-0 but Suarez was suspended for four months. FIFA said “such behavior cannot be tolerated.” His teammates were soon gone, as well, after a loss to Colombia in the next game.
Suarez eventually came clean and apologized. No less a person than Chiellini asked FIFA to reduce the suspension. He said things happen on the field.
As for Suarez, he promised – with his uppers and lowers – to never bite anyone again.
Other wayward spots visited by sports this year:
Animal house: The Portland Trail Blazers discovered a rattlesnake in their locker room in San Antonio. “I don’t know if that’s ever happened before,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “That sounds like an ABA story.” … Golfer Luke Donald was less concerned by a charge from the rest of the field than he was with a large baboon charging him during a tournament in the South African wilderness. “They are big and strong and you wouldn’t want to mess with them,” he said. …. Golf also proved a hazard in Malaysia for Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal, who threw down his scorecard, tossed off his shoes and jumped in a lake to escape a swarm of monstrous hornets. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “My caddie told me to run, so I start running.”
Love and death: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League became wedding planners. The team offered couples the chance to say “I do” on its field, completing perhaps the ultimate Hail Marry. … The family of a Puerto Rican boxer wanted to honor his passion. So there he was, or there the body of Christopher Rivera Amaro was, standing upright with boxing gloves in the corner of a simulated ring at his wake in a San Juan funeral home.
Chip shot: Webb Simpson is a champion golfer, and an obliging sort. So when he saw a bunch of kids hanging around the clubhouse at Pinehurst – site of the men’s and women’s U.S. Open – he made it a point to sign autographs. He noticed one girl with braces off to the side. He asked her if there was anything he could do. “No,” said 11-year-old Lucy Li. “I’m playing in the tournament next week.”
Trash stalkers: They were the sanitary kings of the World Cup. And it mattered little that their team lost. After games, Japan’s fans scooped up the mess left in the stadium. Other fans get drunk and fight. The Japanese put their blue trash bags to work, drawing on a tradition of respect and decorum. So now, as FIFA tries to clean the muck from its befouled stables, the course of action is clear: Assign the job to Japan.
Fiddler on the goof: Forgive Olympic leaders if they don’t swoon to the strains of Vanessa-Mae’s violin. The celebrity musician who lives in Britain and skied for Thailand at the Sochi Games is not what she’s cracked up to be. She competed as Vanessa Vanakorn, taking the last name of her Thai father. No problem there. But her qualifying races for Sochi were rigged, and the IOC months later banned her for four years, not that she was headed to the World Cup circuit. At Sochi, she finished 67th and last in the giant slalom, more than 50 seconds behind. How slow was the violinist? Adagio, for sure.
Fielder’s choice: Hailed like a Pharaoh, Derek Jeter was bestowed with countless gifts as he left baseball. Even the Earth itself paid tribute. A cornfield in central New Jersey was cut in such a way to present an image of the Yankee captain’s face, along with a baseball and his No. 2. “This was just something totally different,” said Cindy VonThun, whose in-laws own the farm. “To walk out in the field and to be on the path and to say ‘I’m in Derek Jeter’s chin,’ it’s pretty cool.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.