Luis Suarez is the most exciting player in the world. He fills me with despair. His life made him this way as eloquently described by Wright Thompson on ESPN. He is a loyal family man, someone who has emerged from hopeless poverty and abandonment, a world beater and someone who bites and racially abuses people on a football field. He takes your breath away and leaves you bewildered.
But there's another aspect to the Luis Suarez story- his relationship with institutions. Could it be that bad institutions explain Luis Suarez as much they do England's World Cup failure? The answer is yes- up to a point. Tom Adams suggests why over at Eurosport. Basically, the main culprits are Liverpool FC and the Uruguay national side. By protecting Suarez from the outside world they have failed to protect him from himself. Liverpool have aided his denial - especially in the aftermath of the racial abuse of Patrice Evra - and so has Uruguay which has fallen back on preposterous conspiracy theories to explain away his appalling conduct (though I did enjoy the philosophical iconoclasm of the Uruguay manager's dismissal of criticism of Suarez: “This is a football World Cup, it’s not about morality, cheap morality.”)
So just as Luis Suarez has sublime states and disgraceful states so too do the institutions with which he is involved- as most institutions do. The problem comes when institutions define themselves by their virtuous moments - sometimes in a genuine situation of grievance and injustice such as Hillsborough - and fail to appreciate their fallibility in other moments that are quite different. They close down and fall into 'us and them'. They define their behaviour as de facto virtue. And they lose the ability to understand an outside perspective (some of which is malignly intentioned but much of it is not). It is classic institutional retreat.
This is exactly what the Police Federation went through and it's what most institutions in crisis do.
How can it be resisted? The answer is: be ready. You must have access to honest, independent perspective at a time of crisis. The independent review of the Police Federation recommended an 'external reference group' to act as a wise sounding board in just this sort of situation. Any institution in the public eye should consider the same. There are situations that can't be coped with internally. Luis Suarez is one such situation. Liverpool FC and Uruguay instead rely on insiders or hired lawyers and PRs. Fatal.
Ultimately, Luis Suarez's behaviour is the responsibility of Luis Suarez. However, the two institutions who have a duty of care towards him have let him down by defending him- and failing to help him overcome his malaise. He has let them down and they have let him down. Liverpool can do no more about Suarez and should sell him to Barcelona or Real Madrid to see if they fare better. I hope so. He's more good than malign and I fear for him and his family unless football can help him find some inner peace.
The bigger lesson is that just like Luis Suarez, institutions have their virtuous and their fallible sides. And we all do. We had just better hope there is a good institution there to help us when we fall.