Ian Herbert: Liverpool striker Luis Suarez - an ideal pantomime villain for the age of outrage

The nation is not so consumed by apocalyptic horror at his bite as we'd like to think

Just follow the headlines for a real sense of how the nation feels about Luis Suarez. "Same old Suarez, always eating!" "Gnash of the Day". The Sun were more than matched by The Guardian's rather good "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves?" before our "Morning after the bite before". The tone pretty much reflects the tenor of Twitter since Suarez got his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic's shirt – though possibly not into his skin, because that's not been broken, but that's another story.

There's been a #suarezhungry hashtag on Twitter, and a few "Best Luis Suarez bites Ivanovic" on some of those football-themed website repositories. "Eat Ivanovic then ask for Cech" and "All Bran(ovic)". Nice. Even Patrice Evra joined the party with an inflatable arm that he bit into at Old Trafford on Monday.

All of which tells you that the nation is not quite so consumed by apocalyptic horror about all this as we'd like to think. Horror is a sensation provoked by replaying the Roy Keane "tackle" on Alf-Inge Haaland in 1997 and no one was suggesting that he should have played his last game for Manchester United. Let's be honest – this is not so much collective horror as a vicarious pleasure in a perfectly formed pantomime plot, with a clearly defined villain.

Outrage is great for filling up the vast black holes of space in the rolling news era. We're in an age of national outrage, when one footballer can feel another one make to bite him and find police officers waiting for him to disembark from a coach in the middle of the Surrey night, to check his skin for marks. There were none, actually. Suarez did not break the Chelsea defender's skin and we can take Merseyside Police's word for this.

Ivanovic had "no apparent physical injuries", they said in a statement on Monday. What have we actually seen, then? Something encapsulated by Alan Smith's remarks on the Sky Sports commentary: "He must have sunk his teeth in there I think. That's what it looks like. Oh my word." And that really was the most Smith could have said, because the only evidence we have is 44 seconds of inconclusive footage, followed by Ivanovic pointing to his arm.

The Football Association said in its own statement a few hours after Merseyside Police's that "the standard punishment of three matches that would otherwise apply is clearly insufficient in these circumstances". Simply to make to bite someone is disgraceful and today's FA three-man independent regulatory commission must act swiftly and comprehensively when they see today that Suarez has. But "clearly insufficient" in what way? On the basis of a case which is not exactly overwhelmed with evidence, the FA seems to have made its minds up already. The governing body has issued a statement that prejudices the outcome of the tribunal, having ensured, to the point of extreme and understandable secrecy, that last year's tribunal governing Suarez's racist abuse of Patrice Evra was not similarly prejudiced.

It's a cultural thing that has helped inflate this perfect storm. The English football spirit tells us that our national game is a physical game and that to stamp is lower down the scale of the intolerable than the spiteful act of biting or spitting. It's a media thing. Biting is new. It's news, in a way that England hooker Dylan Hartley biting the finger of Ireland's Stephen Ferris last March was not. (A decade has passed since Aussie rules player Peter Filandia's 10-game suspension for biting an opponent's testicles during a game, so don't let's conjure the thought.) It's a Suarez thing. Any other player and it is only news for a few days.

The subplot that links Suarez with Mike Tyson, who we're told has started following the player on Twitter, really is the most incredible part of all. As if there is actually any parallel between Tyson chewing off part of Evander Holyfield's ear and Ivanovic feeling Suarez make to bite him. All part of the pantomime, as is the so-called involvement of "Number 10". David Cameron's spokesman has said: "It is rightly a matter for the football authorities to consider."

Scandal doesn't look like this. Scandal is a Crown Court judge, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, meeting Hillsborough families whose case he was about to consider, in October 1997, and when some of the families did not turn up, making a joke about the Disaster. "Have you got a few of your people or are they like Liverpool fans, turning up at the last minute?" the judge asked Phil Hammond, who lost his 14-year-old son at Hillsborough. The day of reckoning for years of obfuscation, deceit and institutional failings will come a step nearer, with a preliminary inquest hearing in London tomorrow. You can bet the coverage won't hold a candle to the Suarez storm.

Suggested Topics
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice