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.