Questions, Theories And Observations On The End Of The Simone Biles Affair [Corrected]

Biles medal ceremony

Well, the last on Ethics Alarms, anyway, I hope. I wish I could justify not dealing with the “rest of the story,” but I can’t: too much metaphorical ink has been spilled here, there and everywhere over this annoying Ethics Train Wreck.

To bring you up to date, Biles returned to Olympics competition on the balance beam today (well today in Japan) and did well enough to win the bronze medal. She performed back handsprings, flips, split leaps and a double back flip for her dismount, but it was a safe routine not calculated to win. She did not, for example, dismount with the signature move named after her.

What’s going on here? Damned if I know. After debating a number of Biles defenders and reading the relentless spin being offered up by the mainstream media, it is clear to me, at least, that whatever Biles did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, these people would stick to the established compassionate narrative. Biles, meanwhile, would follow a scripted effort to salvage some of her value as a celebrity cash cow after an Olympics disaster that would have sunk any similarly acclaimed male athlete, and most female ones.

Here’s how the New York Times began its story about Biles, the Greatest Of All Time, aka GOAT, not being able to be better than the third best in a single Olympics gymnastics event:

“Simone Biles didn’t want her Olympics, and perhaps her career, to end with her in the stands and not on the competition floor. It couldn’t end that way, after all, considering everything she had sacrificed to make it to the Tokyo Games. She suffered through years of self-doubt as a sexual abuse survivor after realizing that Lawrence G. Nassar, the longtime U.S. national team doctor, had molested her. And she had endured an extra year of training on aching muscles and painful ankles and dealing with U.S.A. Gymnastics, the entity that failed to prevent her abuse.”

Such shameless framing of an elite athlete’s failure in order to ensure minimal accountability has surely never appeared in print before in a reputable publication. Did any account of Babe Ruth failing to come through for his team in a big game ever begin with a reference to his traumatic upbringing in a shabby Baltimore orphanage? Was Ty Cobb excused for attacking a fan during a game because of the trauma he suffered when learning about the tragic death of his father? [ Notice of Correction: In the original post, I wrote that Cobb’s father had committed suicide, which is what I thought I knew. I was wrong, and should have checked. I apologize for putting more misinformation into the web. Much thanks to LoSonnambulo for alerting me.] No, because the various traumas and tragedies athletes have suffered on their way to triumphs, celebrity, fame, and wealth are irrelevant to their performance in their chosen sports—except for Simone Biles.

In addition, in order to turn an extremely unheroic performance on the big stage of the Olympics into a laudable one, we have now seen a media propaganda redefine “mental health.” Now, thanks to the Biles PR avalanche, failures of character under stress are mental health episodes, and criticizing the athletes involved is the equivalent of blaming sick people for being sick.

Also in the Times piece:

“Her beam final ended her roller coaster of an Olympics, which will be remembered for her decision to withdraw from the team final, and for emphasizing the often overlooked importance of mental health in elite sports. Biles said she wouldn’t change anything about these Tokyo Games because it gave her a chance to talk about that issue.”

Does anyone believe that? That statement is signature significance: nobody who should be believed about anything says something that obviously untrue….especially since Biles was repeatedly ambiguous and inarticulate when talking about “that issue.”

The Times goes into great detail about how thoroughly Biles was checked and examined before competing on the balance beam, as if this proves that she was in the throes of a dangerous mental or emotional malady other than the common human experience of “losing one’s nerve.” No, this was simply self-preservation on the part of U.S. Gymnastics. As Jason Whitlock had noted earlier, if Biles was seriously injured after the “twisties” narrative, they would face devastating liability.

Furthermore:

  • It seems to me that Biles’ competing on the balance beam shows that she suffered from a very selective variety of “the twisties.” It didn’t affect her sense of location all the time, just in the most difficult maneuvers, and in other events.
  • Biles competed in the balance beam not to win, but to show up. You can call that courage if you like. I call it public relations repair work.
  • Will a bronze medal be sufficient to preserve Biles’ income as a product endorser and a corporate pitchwoman? We shall see. It never has been enough before, but pulling out of competition, abandoning one’s team and complaining about the pressure of high level sports has never been repackaged as virtuous and admirable before.
  • Anyone who continues to call Biles the GOAT should be mocked and told to stop abusing the English Language, not to mention history and logic. Those who deserve to be called “the greatest” don’t cave to pressure, complain about stress, or finish third. Olga Korbut, Nadia Comenecci and Mary-Lous Retton didn’t fold during the Olympics. They were champions.
  • Perhaps the most discouraging take-away from the Biles mess is how hypocritical 21st Century feminism is, and how easily women accept the benefits of perceived weakness, delicacy, and vulnerability. Biles has been treated like a child throughout the episode, because she is small, adorable, and female. Our brave feminist warriors want to be treated like equals, unless it is to their advantage not to be.

17 thoughts on “Questions, Theories And Observations On The End Of The Simone Biles Affair [Corrected]

  1. With apologies to Oscar Wilde:
    One must have a heart of stone to read the Olympic story of Simone Biles without laughing.

  2. Will a bronze medal be sufficient to preserve Biles’ income as a product endorser and a corporate pitchwoman?

    At this point could they even if they wanted to? It might be financially best for them just to wait it out until months after the Olympics.

    • My guess is it’s full steam ahead for her sponsors. Biles is an icon. She’s impossible to sully. And besides, everything that’s happened in the last two weeks has been wonderful! It’s all ENHANCED her marketability! It’s not as if she’s announced she’s transitioning to being a white, heterosexual guy or something like that. Although, come to think of it, if she were to transition to another sex, that would doubtless enhance her reputation. The possibilities in woke marketing are endless.

  3. I’ve tried to avoid paying much attention to this mess, but had been hoping that if she did return and place, that she would push a teammate out of the win. Figured that might set up a fun new round of rationalizations.

    It sort of did happen here…maybe. A teammate and another competitor tied in points for fourth place, but the teammate was “ranked” as coming in fifth. Don’t know how that works, but from what I could find, if there is a tie for bronze, both get medals, so maybe the other girl missed out on at least a medal because of Biles being back in.

  4. Welcome to the new twenties, where we celebrate angst over achievement, color is more important than competence, and victimhood trumps victory every day and twice on Wednesday and Sunday. They used to say that it didn’t so much matter whether you won or lost as whether you did the best you could and played the game by the rules. Now they’re saying that it doesn’t matter so much whether you win or lose as how much you groan and complain along the way. They are also saying that if you are female, gay, or of color, it does not matter whether you win or lose, because you have already won the more important moral victory just by your presence. By the same token, if you are white and male it does not matter if you win or lose, because you have already lost because you carry the sins of oppression, whether or not you ever personally oppressed anyone is irrelevant.

    I don’t find Simone Biles “adorable.” I had a crush on Mary Lou Retton way back when I was a kid, but that’s about it. What I do find interesting is that the current wave of feminism says that women have to not only be as strong as men, but they have to achieve the same exact things as men. They have to be the surgeon, the firefighter, the fighter pilot. Girls rule, right? Except when they don’t. However, if they don’t, it’s never their fault. They don’t even bear a smidgen of the blame. It’s always the parents, the teachers, the support network that fails, it’s never the woman that fails. The cops picked up this woman for solicitation, emaciated, stoned, and alcoholic. The court gave her a psych evaluation, and all she did was blame her family, the school system, etc. Except none of them stuck that needle in her arm or made her take that drink. Someone I used to be friends with on Facebook and kind of knew from college has been married and divorced four times. I think her mentality should be clear from the fact that at one point she had a cat who she named Obama (because he had black fur), so it should come as no surprise that everyone of these divorces was the guy’s fault. Heaven forbid anyone even intimate to her that she might be either a really bad judge of character or a lousy wife. So it should come as no surprise that in this case nothing that went wrong was the fault of the athlete. And you, a man, are not allowed to say otherwise, in fact it’s better if you just keep quiet all together.

    • As a young boy, Ben Hogan allegedly saw his father commit suicide in front of him.

      But wait! There’s more! From his wiki page:

      “Driving home to Fort Worth after a Monday playoff loss at the 1949 Phoenix Open, Hogan and his wife Valerie survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus east of Van Horn, Texas. On the morning of Wednesday, February 2, Hogan had reduced his speed in the limited visibility ground fog; the bus was attempting to pass another vehicle on a narrow bridge, which left no place to avoid the crash. Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her. He would have been killed had he not done so, because the steering column punctured the driver’s seat of their new Cadillac sedan.

      This accident left Hogan, age 36, with a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots: he would suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations. His doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. While Hogan was in the hospital in El Paso, his life was endangered by a blood clot problem that led doctors to tie off the vena cava. He left the hospital on the first of April, 59 days after the accident, and returned to Fort Worth by train.

      Hogan regained his strength by extensive walking and resumed his golf activities in November 1949. He returned to the PGA Tour to start the 1950 season at the Los Angeles Open, where he tied with Sam Snead over 72 holes, but lost the 18-hole playoff, held over a week later (due to course conditions).”

      I think it was Tommy Bolt who famously quipped, “I’m not a athlete, I’m a golfer.”

        • Not surprising. Both were southerners (Hogan a Texan, so kind of a southerner), and both were notoriously grumpy to the point of being angry Both ran businesses after they retired. And both were grinders who got the most out of their talents. And neither of them were large. Old school tough guys. My father could have won a Ben Hogan look alike contest. Same generation and an inordinate amount of unhappiness and tragedy.

  5. BTW, is that the time Cobb went into the stands and beat the tobacco juice out of a fan who was missing one hand and most of his fingers on the other hand, but who had yelled an insult implying Cobb was part black (in 1912, to a guy born in Georgia)? Not to excuse Cobb for being a racist (typical for the time and place)and a complete asshole (not as typical), but it’s kinda dumb to yell fighting words when you can’t fight.

  6. Dear Jack,

    I am reminded about what you wrote regarding the cognitive dissonance scale not too long ago in the context of Ellen DeGeneres. I don’t know how to insert your graphic scale, which appears to be a linear scale.

    You said:
    ** Dr. Festinger’s simple chart tells us that that when the gap between someone or something people like and someone or something they don’t like that is associated with what they like is too large, their minds have to fix the disparity. It may elevate regard for the previously deplored items, it may lower regard for the admired items, or much of the time, do both until the dissonance is eliminated. **

    I am also reminded that gymnastics revised its scoring system as the top end of the old scoring scale (with perfect 10s) was not sufficiently granular to separate good from truly outstanding.

    It seems to me that Biles was one who greatly benefited from the new gymnastic scoring system but is also showing that someone at the top end of the positive side of the linear c.d. scale can be so far above others that any negative attribute associated with them demands that the “previously deplored items” be elevated not just a little but to positive status.

    One could say, “bias makes you stupid.”

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