MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- In the gigantic world out there, Luis Suarez might seem to play the role of the monster.
His teeth are, after all, large.
His four-month, World Cup-ending suspension for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini might prove the rules do apply to monster stars.
In this tiny universe right here, the gigantic world out there plays the monster.
Luis Suarez plays the victim.
He's toothless against the tide.
Remember, Suarez hails from Uruguay, from a childhood in both Salto in the northwest and the capital here on the coast. With 3.3 million people, Uruguay is the smallest of the original 32 World Cup nations, smaller than at least eight Brazilian cities, one-sixth of Sao Paulo, less than one-third of Rio de Janeiro.
Think of Uruguay as the little engine that not only can, but does. It won World Cups in 1930 and 1950; you can buy soccer balls in 2014 with those years on them. It reached the final four in South Africa in 2010 to become the last nation standing from an elite football continent. With the world's 135th-ranked population in the world's 91st-ranked land area, it just finished beating European bigwigs England and Italy to wriggle out of imposing Group D. A play-by-play announcer called the winning goal against Italy, then sat back and started weeping. A burly Uruguayan man emoted in the stands in Natal in a video that gave a glimpse at the interior of his mouth, but otherwise charmed. The victory over Italy carried imponderable meaning. Impromptu celebrations on the street have persisted.
With all that as backdrop, Uruguayan TV has been a marvel of the aggrieved these last 24 hours. It features everything but handkerchiefs and pompoms. It's hackneyed to say it's like being on some other planet, except it's like being on some other planet. It's hard to stop watching, wondering what pundits or anchors or fans-on-the-street might concoct next to argue against a world that recoils at athletes biting other athletes without permission.
They're in a rationalization pickle, and here's a greatest-hits album of their themes:
It's only because he's a star: This is a runaway airplay single hit. This thinking goes that if he were some marginal player, FIFA would pay no attention to the incident. In this thinking, stars get treatment worse than non-stars. Desperation level: five desperados out of five.
Players do meaner things: The Uruguayan player Diego Lugano opted for this tact when he said, "Other incidents are more violent." The president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, who donates much of his salary and lives in uncommon presidential austerity (the prez in an old VW Beetle!), told reporters, "They give each other so many kicks and blows and normally they put up with it." The oldest TV network, Canal 10, ran a sequence of mean things Italian players did to Uruguayan players during Uruguay's 1-0 win Monday, part of an evening-news, all-Suarez opening that lasted 30 minutes. Desperation level: three desperados, on account of possibly prompting a worthwhile discussion of why biting so irks adult humans.
If they suspend Suarez for that bite, they also should suspend Neymar for that elbow: It's a spinoff song! Desperation level: five desperados.
The referee, he did not see: Various Uruguayan officials and lawyers have sang this one, and the president has echoed it. This one goes that the referee should have the final say, and it could work only with the correct answer to this question: Under opposite conditions, would you remain on the same side of the argument? Desperation level: five desperados.
The video isn't completely clear; isn't there some other video evidence: Suarez's lawyer and a news anchor wondered this aloud. Desperation level: five desperados.
The big European nations are mad because their teams are eliminated: This tune rings through the land and tells much about the world dynamic here. It might even have centuries-old roots in colonization. Large, distant forces are at work. Desperation level: four desperados, with a point for sympathy.
It's the English media: This mighty force, blamed in so many calamities such as English soccer, dislikes Suarez, who plays there. This rampant tune omits the verse that would go: This mighty force dislikes Suarez because he bites people. Desperation level: five desperados.
It's the Colombian media: They're playing this up to harm Uruguay, Colombia's opponent in the round of 16. Desperation level: five desperados. (Note: They're playing this up because it attracts attention.)
It's the Brazilian media: They're playing this up to harm Uruguay, which would be potential opponent for the quarterfinals. Desperation level: five desperados. (Note: They're playing this up because it attracts attention.)
The player pushed his shoulder into Suarez's mouth: An elderly man on the street said this. He may have winked. Desperation level: one desperado, on account of points for the possible wink.
They always pick on the best players, like they did with Maradona: This wailing number meets too easily with retort, which would go: They always pick on the players whenever they used banned substances or bite other players. Desperation level: five desperados.
But he's a good father who stays out of nightclubs: It's a variation on an oldie. Desperation level: five desperados, for impugning nightclubs.
FIFA is corrupt anyway!: Minutes after FIFA announced the suspension of Suarez, a Canal 10 presenter sitting around the usual morning TV living room said FIFA had "raised doubts" in recent years and that even the World Cup draw last December had its share of doubters. Desperation level: zero on the FIFA corrupt part, five for lack-of-information-on-the-draw part.
Uruguay is in pain: The tourism minister said this. Desperation level: zero desperados. That much is clear.