Kevin Garside: Luis Suarez will never be a role model in the manner of mighty Adrian Peterson

The Way I See It: The better the player, the more forgiveness is extended to him

The letter of the week was written by an eight-year-old girl, Mia, and addressed to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It was entitled “My Hero”, 11 lines of aspirational prose that should be nailed to every dressing-room door in sport, and more particularly in the week when Luis Suarez made his return for Liverpool, next to the celebrated script at the entry to the players’ tunnel that says “This is Anfield”.

“Dear Hero, I played a game yesterday and tried so hard to win but that did not happen. I got really mad because my team-mates did not play well, but I remembered to encourage each other and never give up. I got hurt and I shook it off. I was so sad that we lost but every game YOU try your hardest and YOU encourage each other, and sometimes YOU win and sometimes lose… I want to be just like YOU when I am older… YOU are my hero. If I could meet anybody it would be YOU. Good luck! Your biggest fan, Mia 8 years!”

You can hear the voice of mum and dad, her words distilling the message of the universal parent, an ideal that is reinforced on the field of play by Peterson. Having met the man, if only fleetingly, before yesterday’s NFL engagement with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley, I can vouch for the aura of integrity. He appears a substantial figure in every respect, a Hall of Famer on the pitch and off it a man who has learned to smile despite a tragic past of lost brothers and a  jailed father.

It seems to me that this kind of affirmation, perhaps the purest life has to offer, is not available to Suarez. How might he receive Mia’s supplications? How might he be held as a role model, an example to a child? It would be overstating the case to claim that Peterson’s knees buckled on receipt of the missive presented to him after his final training session on Friday, but there was a quiet recognition of the power of the sentiments expressed. The note got to the heart of it. It told of something fundamental, something of what it is to be good, as opposed to good at something. 

Suarez, sadly, is by no means the only athlete to fail to make the distinction. For him and too many others sport is all about the self and the immediacy of now. How we are viewed 10 years from now, 50 years from now, is not considered. But the years will roll by and when his contributions to the game are addressed the goals will not erase the memory of the way he carried himself.

The racist abuse of a fellow player, the craven biting of an opponent, the cynical manipulation of the uneasy political environment at Liverpool that was created by his own hand, and the utter disregard of those who carry his name on the backs of their shirts, who reached out to him unconditionally in his hour of need, these will define his time in England every bit as much as the great moments he conjured on  the pitch.

Suarez was made to answer for his abuse of Patrice Evra and for biting Branislav Ivanovic. Fair enough. But not it seems for his appalling treatment of Liverpool FC. Witness the mawkish logorrhoea of arguably the club’s greatest player and former manager Kenny Dalglish in his Mirror column at the weekend: “When he came back into the Liverpool side on Wednesday night, it felt like the Reds had been boosted by a new big-money signing. It was almost as if the transfer window had been extended for them and suddenly they had a new superstar in the team…

“It has been suggested that this must be the last chance for Luis at Liverpool and that if he steps out of line again the club has to get rid of him. I don’t know if it’s his last chance. I don’t know if there is any more trouble coming down the line. But let’s be honest about this – the better the player, the more forgiveness is extended to him. That’s just the reality. The greater the need to have a player in your squad, the more the goalposts move in terms of what you  forgive him for.”

And there in the words of an all-time great a summary of the moral state of the game. An acceptance of that is depressingly understood.

We get that there is an economic imperative to all of this and a need to manage the retention or sale of a player according to domestic interest, but surely there is a line crossed in the Suarez case. Keep him if you must but do not frame his return in eulogy.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam