The talent/treachery scale in sport

Luis Suarez really is a journalist’s dream. When he’s scoring, his goals make the headlines. When he’s not scoring, his goal-drought makes the headlines. And when he’s biting people, well, the stories seem to write themselves.

Twitter was remarkably quick to cover all the jokes, so there’s no need for me to sink my teeth into them…

Suarez
Livepool striker and Uruguay international Luis Suarez caused controversy on Sunday, April 21st, 2013 when he bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. Photo: Globovisión (via Flickr)

But it got me thinking, just how much can a sports star get away with in accordance with their talent? Having watched the rise of Tiger Woods and the fall of Lance Armstrong, it occurred to me that the public have a tolerance level.

Those good enough can overcome their misdemeanours, while those who fail seemingly have less leeway. In other words, your Titus Brambles must walk a very thin line.

Here’s how the talent/treachery scale works. You simply divide talent by treachery, and the resulting figure shows how well the public will take to you. The higher the better.

Ronnie O Sullivan
Talent: 10
Treachery: 3
Result: 3.33

O’Sullivan’s misdemeanours in the snooker arena are mere piffle compared to other offerings. Light swearing, punching the table and a towel on his head are about all we can blame the genius for. And he is genius. Ronnie earns his ten for mastering his sport left and right handed, and popping in a maximum in little over five minutes. Monstrous.

Sebastian Vettel
Talent: 9
Treachery: 4
Result: 2.25

Vettel’s competitive attitude reached boiling point with defiance of team orders in Malaysia, and the dreaded victory finger adds another point onto his misdemeanour tally. His three world titles though mean he’s in no danger on the talent/treachery scale though.

Diego Maradona
Talent: 10
Treachery: 10
Result: 1

Maradona had more talent in his chest hair than I will ever have but, as is the cliché, he was a flawed genius. In a match that showed just why he ranks so highly in each category, Maradona scored one of the finest and one of the most despicable goals of all time against England in 1986. A world cup ejection and a lengthy ban for drugs push him up to ten for treachery, but his ability ensures he is remembered fondly by many.

Suarez
Talent: 8
Treachery: 9 =0.88

For all the things Suarez has done, the worst for me will always be his actions against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup. Deliberately handling the ball to prevent a Ghana winner, and subsequently celebrating Gyan’s penalty miss, Suarez marred the Black Stars’ chances of progress in an African World Cup. He rates strongly for talent, but I fear the bite will be one step too far.

Joey Barton
Talent: 4
Treachery: 9
Result: 0.44

Barton makes it in so low as his talent covers up his misdemeanours like an umbrella over an elephant. Barton kicks people better than he kicks the ball.

Lance Armstrong
Talent: 1
Treachery: 10
Result: 0.1

Described as one of the most sophisticated doping programmes in the history of cycling, Lance Armstrong took drugs during all of his seven Tour de France titles. What baffles me is how you drive yourself to cheat for seven titles. Where is the sense of achievement?

Sadly I will never know how good Lance was, so I’ll have to award him a one for talent. The people don’t take kindly to cheating Lance. No amount of talent will make up for that.

So it seems anywhere between 0.8 and 1 is a grey area, above and below those figures and you know your station. The coming weeks may shed a little more light on whether Suarez’s 0.88 is enough to keep him popular with fans. Many have already condemned him. Let’s see if their bark is worse than their bite.

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