What Can Luis Suarez Teach Us (about rejection)?

If you are a sports fan and don't watch the World Cup, let me tell you something: you are missing out! This is an awesome tournament with tons of drama. If that's not convincing enough, know that there was a player from Uruguay bit another player from Italy in front of millions of people watching. His name is Luis Suarez. He is famous for outrageous actions on the soccer pitch, including playing soccer with hands without being a goalkeeper, racially abusing another player, and being a repeated biter. Yes, this is his third biting incident. Maybe Burger King could get him to do a commercial.

As punishment for mistaking Italian player with Italian food, Suarez was suspended for four months, including from the remainder of the World Cup by its organizing body – FIFA. Without his service, team Uruguay lost the next game in the knockout stage.

We all have either laughed or showed outrage toward Suarez. However, Confucius once said, “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher.” Is that possible that someone like Suarez can teach us anything? The answer is YES. Or more precisely, his actions could.

1. Don’t bite people (if you hadn’t learned it by age three, now is a good time). 2. Rejection/acceptance says more about the rejector/acceptor than the rejected/accepted

The world has been shocked with his out-of-control acts, and generally felt the punishment was way too light. It seems like Suarez was universally condemned and rejected.

However, there is one group of people who not only didn’t reject him, but also embraced and united behind him – his own countrymen. Not only Uruguayans didn’t blame him for damaging his team’s chance to win as well as shaming his country, they relentlessly defended him and blamed the western media for picking on Suarez and causing such harsh punishment. When Suarez went back home, he received a hero’s welcome, including that from the Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. Mujica went as far as insulting FIFA and western media as “fascist” and “a bunch of old sons of bitches”.

How could that be, we wonder? How can anyone objectively blame anyone besides Suarez himself for what happened? The guy caused all these himself... by freaking bit someone in a soccer match! Are people from Uruguay illogical and plain mad? How could the same person elicit such stark contrasts in reactions as Suarez did from Uruguayans and the rest of the world?

After I went through 100 Days of Rejection, the reason became rather obvious. Suarez illustrates one truth about acceptance/rejection: they say much more about the accepters/rejectors than the accepted/rejected.

Think about who Luis Suarez is to Uruguay as a country. He is an extremely skilled player who appears once in a generation for a country. His talent should be appreciated by everyone.

His country, Uruguay is not particularly big (#91 in size), rich (#63 in GDP per capita) and powerful (#77 in overall GDP). It has stayed relatively peaceful and thus out of the world news. For an everyday Uruguayan who is proud of their sports, culture and country, Suarez almost represents the image, hope, and pride for an entire nation. As the results, people take the rejection of Suarez extremely personally. It really didn’t matter what Suarez did. Short of for something very extreme, they will defend him. (After the biting incident, during which the “extreme” line was clearly crossed a few times over, even that is in doubt).

The so-called persecution complex exhibited by sports fans as well as group of people looking for respect is a great example about the subjectivity and irrationality of preferences and opinions. In fact, it goes much beyond sports. We see that in culture, law and politics all the time. People rally around a person who represents them, regardless of circumstances.

When people accept or reject you or someone else, instead of arguing or getting mad, find out the ‘why’ behind their action, because it is a great opportunity to learn about them.