|Manchester United's Patrice Evra (right) reacts after Liverpool's Luis Suarez (left) ignored his handshake before their match at Old Trafford on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. (REUTERS/Darren Staples)
Manchester City's continued rise to prominence, Chelsea's sudden decline and Tottenham's blistering form have each been major storylines in the 2011-12 English Premier League season.
Yet racism has emerged as the hot-button issue in England these days, with Liverpool's Luis Suarez pouring more gasoline on the already smoldering fire over the weekend.
Already this season, Chelsea captain John Terry has been accused of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, a charge that Terry will stand trial for in July and one that has had a major impact on the sport in England.
Not only did the FA cancel the pre-match handshake between Chelsea and QPR when the two clubs met in the FA Cup in January, but it also saw fit to strip Terry of his England captaincy.
The decision angered former England manager Fabio Capello, who handed in his resignation earlier this week.
So it was only fitting that Suarez -- who recently returned from an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra during a match in October -- decided to further fan the flames by refusing to shake the hand of the United defender prior to Saturday's match between the two rivals.
It's hard to remember a time when the pre-match pleasantries have come so into focus the way they have this season.
But by snubbing Evra prior to the game, Suarez threatened to turn an already tense situation into a chaotic one.
Had he simply extended his hand to Evra and moved on, both sides could have done their best to bury the hatchet.
Yet the actions of the Uruguayan have now stirred up strong emotions on both sides which could have been easily avoided.
"I couldn't believe it [Suarez refusing to shake Evra's hand]. He's a disgrace to Liverpool football club. He shouldn't be allowed to play for Liverpool again," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said of Suarez following his team's 2-1 win.
The reaction might be a bit overblown, but the simple fact is that Suarez is behaving as though he is the victim, not the other way around.
Simple name-calling between opposing players on the field is one thing, but racial abuse is something that no player should have to put up with.
Had Suarez admitted he was wrong and attempted to move past the incident we would be talking more about the two goals that Wayne Rooney scored in an important win Saturday instead of something that took place prior to kickoff.
But Suarez doesn't seem ready to let go of the ordeal, seemingly placing blame for it at the feet of Evra, who apparently shouldn't have made a big deal about it.
The actions of the Liverpool striker not only reflect poorly on the club, but also put his coaches and teammates in the awkward position of trying to defend him while at the same time doing their best not to condone his actions.
Some may say that it was only a handshake and that too much is being made about it. Yet had Suarez simply done the right thing, it would be much easier to move on.
Racism has already stolen too many headlines this season. It's a shame Suarez allowed it to claim a few more.