bite worse than his bark
October 24, 2006
Under headlines like ‘Toothless FA refuses to bite bullet’, several reports that the footballer Mr. Jermain Defoe has escaped FA punishment for biting the arm of Mr. Javier Mascherano during a football match. ‘Leading referees are dismayed at the message the FA is sending out by not pursuing the case against the striker, fearing a “trickle-down effect” at the lower levels of the game.’ Before long we can expect to see Second Division players grabbing a mouthful of other players’ legs and mass biting brawls in the Natoinwide Conference. Mr Defoe explained ‘I reacted in a bit of a mischievous way; my character is a little like that at times’ but his victim was less philosophical: “To receive a bite was the worst thing that has happened to me since I came to England.” Mr Mascherano has obviously never had to digest a sandwich on a British station, queue at Stansted Airport, sit through a Conservative party conference, or been stuck on the tube, arrested for carrying a nail file or faced any of the other hazards that most people in the UK have to confont. Mr Defoe’s manager, Martin Jol, tried to put the incident in perspective: “He was nibbling his arm. Ask Mascherano if he has got a mark,” said Jol. “It is part of the game”. Interesting that nibbling, which my dictionary defines as ‘gently bite at (a part of the body), especially amorously or nervously’ is now part of the game of football. In my day it was hacking at shine, neither nervously nor amorously. This merely confirms my suspicion that football is no longer a game for real men. Mr Jol also pointed out that biting is found in other sports, like rugby, where, I imagine there is no question of a mere nibble. The sight of all that biteable flesh must be one temptation too many for the normal hot-blodied meat-eating male rugby player.
Of course these incidents pale in comparison with the most famous sports biting of all, when one Mike Tyson used his teeth to carry out some impromptu plastic surgery on the ear of his opponent, an event that prompted Bill Clinton (who knoew a thing or two about biting) to say “I was horrified by it. And I think the American people are.” Post 9/11, however, that incident no longer ranks as the most traumatic event in American history subsequent to Peal Harbour. As one commentator pointed out at the time “What do you expect? Two guys pounding at each other, trying to cave in each other’s skulls: why would a bite be considered animalistic?” I think boxing might be a little more entertaining and less primeval if the contestants were required to nibble each other rather than beat the opponent’s face to a pulp. And if dentures were forbidden it might do wonders for the dental health of one section of the population. I can’t resist quoting what one US sports commentator said at the time: “I love boxing. I love mano a mano.It’s primordal. It’s there, and at its best, it’s balletic.” How much more primordal and balletic diente a diente would be. A couple of images to close:
this, Mr Mascherano, is a bite (a 19 year-old activist from Beit Sira biting the hand of an Israeli soldier who arrested him)
and maybe it would not be a good idea to give you a pair of these shorts for Christmas