THE media have made a big deal out of it. Alex Ferguson has blown it out of all proportion. Rival fans have pointed the finger. Rent-a-quotes have fallen over themselves to comment.
And absolutely none of it – not one little bit of it – is surprising.
It’s what the media do. It’s what managers do. It’s what rival fans do. It’s what Gordon Taylor does.
Now – again – Liverpool’s reputation is being tarnished.
Now – again – Kenny Dalglish, the club’s management, the owners, the fans – are being questioned.
Now – again – the whole sorry affair is being replayed.
Newspapers, radio, TV, Twitter and internet forums represent water torture for the soul.
And all because Luis Suarez couldn’t bring himself to shake Patrice Evra’s hand.
A handshake doesn’t matter – it’s only a handshake, say those that defend Suarez.
Exactly. So shake the hand.
It’s meaningless, they say. Yes it is. So shake the hand.
Personally, I can’t get too angry at the media response to what happened at Old Trafford.
They’re firing shots at the club I love again. Never a nice feeling.
But Suarez loaded the bullets, spun the chamber and handed over the weapon.
Shake the hand – no story. No outrage. No George Galloway. No comparisons with General Pinochet.
Suarez had made it clear to the club that pays his wages, the club that has gone out on a limb to defend him in recent times, that he would shake Evra’s hand.
This information ended up in the laps of the media. A line was being drawn. No more fuel for the fire. Everyone was moving on.
So to suggest Suarez is on the wrong end of an agenda when a billion people and the world’s media watched doesn’t wash with me.
Football is full of hypocrisy – it’s as much a part of the top-level game as blanket media coverage.
Managers defend their own and castigate their rivals. It happens all the time.
So does it matter that Ferguson commented so outrageously about Suarez? Not really.
And what about this incident, and that incident, this player and that player?
Well what about them? Suarez still let the club down. The fact other people have let their clubs down changes nothing.
If the roles were reversed on Saturday and Evra (who it goes without saying is no saint) had refused to shake hands with Suarez would the same words appear in the same places on the internet?
Would it be unimportant then? Would the media be wrong to place it so high on the news agenda then?
Or would those very same people defending Suarez be pointing the finger; adding weight to an incident that was over in the blink of an eye, casting aspersions about character and happily lapping up the fact that a rival club’s reputation was being dented?
Accusing the media of myopia while simultaneously displaying the same trait lessens the power of the words.
Suarez can think what he likes of Evra, I couldn’t care less. He’s a player, albeit a very talented one, but he’s not Liverpool Football Club – and that’s what matters in all this.
As a high-profile representative of Liverpool Football Club he should have thought about the repercussions of his actions.
Rightly or wrongly, his behaviour – particularly so in this circumstance – reflects on the club.
Shaking Evra’s hand would have shown a bit of class. The ability to rise above it. If he’s been wronged – and only he and Evra truly know one way or another – then he should have taken comfort in that fact, clasped Evra’s hand and moved on. No one was asking for anything more.
And I don’t believe for a minute that he didn’t think of what shunning that handshake would mean.
The fact Dalglish, and latterly Ian Ayre, have said they believed he would shake Evra’s hand is proof the matter was discussed in advance of the match.
Everyone was aware where it would go if he didn’t.
The apologies have since arrived. Rightly so, in my opinion. Yet the story will roll on.
Tomorrow, a radio station will discuss whether Dalglish should go. Similar has been suggested in the press today.
He has made mistakes during this whole sorry affair but the fact he is in the crosshairs again is down to Suarez and his momentary lapse of reason.
Suarez owes the club. Now it’s time for him to repay the faith shown in him in the place where he can make a difference – on the pitch.
That will allow everyone connected with Liverpool to do something they are now desperate for.
To move on and get back to the football.