[WORLD VIEW] One wonders what Boston Red Sox owner John Henry is thinking he's gotten himself into. Sixteen months after
his Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool with the goal of building back up its reputation as one of the great clubs in soccer, he finds himself being beaten up in all quarters. The latest: Liverpool's
American ownership was forced to intervene and resolve a "festering mess" a day after Uruguayan star Luis Suarez refused to shake Patrice Evra's hand in the pre-game exchange of greetings between Liverpool and Manchester United and manager Kenny Dalglish, another symbol of
the new Liverpool, compounded the problem by defending Suarez for an incident he claimed he didn't even see.
From the get-go, Liverpool's handling of the Suarez affair has been questionable. Suarez was handed an eight-game ban for making racial remarks at Evra in the first meeting of the season between Liverpool and United. If evidence was circumstantial and the punishment might have been excessive, Liverpool seemed bent on one goal: putting the matter to rest.
Liverpool management should have been confident everything was under control when it issued a statement earlier last week that Suarez would shake Evra's hands before the game.
But Suarez made sure the matter won't die when he walked past Evra without taking the United captain's extended hand.
United manager Alex Ferguson was quick to pile on the blame, saying Suarez was "a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club … The player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. The history that club's got, and he does that."
Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor called on Henry and fellow owner Tom Werner to intervene. "It is a matter for the owners. This has to be dealt with at the highest level to resolve this festering mess."
To compound Liverpool's problems, Dalglish said he did not see the incident and then ripped the TV reporter questioning him after the game for even bringing up the idea that Suarez might have done something wrong.
"I think you're bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today," said Dalglish.
By Sunday, Dalglish had changed his tune.
"All of us have a responsibility to represent this club in a fit and proper manner," he said. "That applies equally to me as Liverpool manager. When I went on TV after yesterday's game I hadn't seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I'd like to apologize for that."
Suarez followed suit: "I have not only let him [Dalglish] down but also the club and what it stands for and I'm sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened. I should have shaken Patrice Evra's hand before the game and I want to apologize for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football."
In the aftermath of his eight-game ban, there was already some doubt about Suarez's future in the EPL, but Saturday's incident probably sealed his fate.
No matter what Suarez says, it's hard to see the issue going away.
It leaves Liverpool very much in a bind: how to recoup its $32 million investment in a player who needs to leave England.
And it brings up the problems Henry and Suarez have on the home front. For those who don't follow baseball, here's a quick summary of the problems in Red Sox Nation:
Boston endured an epic collapse last fall, dumped its popular manager Terry Francona and spent the offseason dealing with reports that three starting pitchers hung out in the clubhouse drinking "rally beers" and eating fried chicken during games.
As the opening of spring training approached, the Red Sox were slow to rebuild -- a problem some in the Boston media blamed on the club owners' massive investment in Liverpool.
Following the latest Suarez flareup -- an incident that he says makes "the fried chicken and beer 'scandal' of last fall look laughable by comparison" -- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe says, "This incident begs the question of whether Henry is stretched too thin owning two high-profile teams on different continents. Not financially, but physically."
Henry, a math genius who made his fortune predicting trends in commodity prices, showed he has a quick temper when he became so incensed by what he was hearing on a Boston talk radio show one day last fall that he drove down to the station and demanded to be given air time and allowed to give his side of the story of the Red Sox problems.
One can only imagine how Henry reacted Saturday morning when he saw Suarez do exactly what he was told not to do and then heard Dalglish make a fool of himself.