The LA Times just blew up my head, which is my problem, and also made it mandatory to once again raise the increasingly aggravating matter of Simone Biles, the greatest, most courageous gymnast who ever quit on her team because the pressure just became too much. The latter is your problem because I assume you’re as sick of reading about Biles as I am sick of thinking about her.
In an article bemoaning how the failure of so many of America’s putative stars in the Tokyo Olympics has put “the Games in a deep hole with lots of digging to be done,” Times sportswriter David Wharton wrote,
“Biles could help. Though facing some detractors, she has received a wave of support on social media over the past 24 hours and, speaking with reporters, sounded as if she might compete in the all-around and individual events beginning later this week. ‘Just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just a little stressed out,” she said, adding that “we’re going to take it a day at a time.‘ Given the very personal yet very public circumstances of Biles’ withdrawal on Tuesday, [assistant professor of sports management at the University of New Haven Jason] Chung believes her return could become an even bigger story. “I could imagine it bringing more viewers because of the human-interest angle,” he said. “Having someone of her magnitude and ability struggling emotionally, people might be interested to see how she weathers the storm. “Also,” he said, “she could draw younger viewers who connect with that kind of authenticity.”
This passage made my head explode four or five times—it’s hard to count when your brains are on the ceiling.The last was the worst–AUTHENTICITY???? Paging Inigo Montoya:
There is nothing authentic about Simone Biles. Acclaimed and accepting acclaim, indeed profiting from acclaim as a female gymnast above all others, the Greatest Of All Time, she failed at the barest minimum any elite athlete is expected to achieve—having the courage to compete and risk defeat. Following her withdrawal after a sub-par performance, she whined about the burden she had willingly accepted as her team’s leader, star and foundation, and allowed others to float deceptive excuses on her behalf. Either Biles is an authentic athletic hero, requiring her to sacrifice, rise above adversity and risk defeat, or she is an authentic fearful, risk-averse, self-centered human being like most human beings—but she cannot be both at the same time. Because she is posing as both, she cannot be called “authentic.”
That was the worst explosion, though since the previous blasts had already largely emptied my skull, it did relatively little damage. They were triggered by…
- Biles’ quote. She has been excused and even lionized because of the claim that she is suffering from a serious mental or emotional problem. One does not recover from such maladies overnight—they are not like hangnails. Once again, she describes herself as “just a little stressed out.” Champpion athletes are expected to deal with stress; they are rewarded for doing so, and it is what makes them champions. While all of her enablers and apologists have made it sound like Biles had to quit because she was banging her head against walls, alternately weeping and giggling madly and one step away from institutionalization, she has repeatedly attributed her behavior to the stress of, presumably, high expectations and having to live up to her hype.
- More viewers! If it is really the stress that caused Biles to bail on her team, what is her reaction going to be to the magnified stress of being watched across the world by voyeurs eager to see if she will crumble? If Biles is genuinelly suffering from the emotional burdens being used to excuse her, then the U.S. team shouldn’t allow her to compete now, and more than they would allow a gymnast to compete with a serious injury.
- “SOME detractors”! Really? Is judging a quitter as a quitter and a “greatest” who behaves like no “greatest” before has ever behaved as not so great actually the minority opinion? How is that possible? I know I am sounding like a broken record (“What’s record, daddy?”), but no celebrity athlete, male or female, has ever been excused for doing what Biles did. Esteemed commenter Here’s Johnny, bless his heart, gives credence to the claim that Biles’ team mates are completely supportive. I will bet my head that eventually one or more of them come forward with their real reactions, and the truth will be markedly different from the official version for the public.
OK, that was just four explosions. It was still too many.