Like I said yesterday, I don’t claim to be expert on gymnastics. Fortunately, I wake up every morning next to someone who is. And the Irish Rose confirms for me that this does not mean that Simone Biles is out of the Olympics altogether. In the confuseopoly that is these Games, she’s still eligible for something that comes after the individual all around, “the event final.” Which hopefully is a good thing for her. Maybe she can find whatever she needs to get herself to a place mentally where she can take some positive out of all this.
Based on a lot of the public reaction to her pulling out of the team competition, had she entered the individual all around, she would’ve been facing a Kobyashi Maru: The unwinnable scenario. Win, and it’s “She’s all about herself and let the team down.” Lose, and “She’s just a loser who never should’ve been on the team.” This way at least, she buys her self some time to sort out her issues and stage a personal comeback, for her if for no one else.
Oh and if she does, I hope it doesn’t prevent the sport itself from having some sort of a reckoning it badly needs. So much is invested in this sport, it is such a moneymaker for the networks, that we tend to forget it is basically run like The Red Room from “Black Widow.” Children taken from their homes and placed in the hands of adults who is only mission is to train them to be good at their assigned tasks. Whether that’s being assassins or working the uneven parallel bars. And if these girls end up being what in a less enlightened time we used to call Coo Coo for Coco Puffs? Well, that’s the price you pay for greatness.
I’ll never forget the 1996 Games producing one of the most iconic moment in history of Olympic sports. Kerri Strug sticking a landing on a busted ankle to secure a gold for Team USA. And back then, I had a dead end job working in an office. And every woman over the age of 40 came into work the next day like they just pulled an all night or. I would call it their Super Bowl, except this was 10 times bigger than any Super Bowl. It was a moment indelibly etched into the brain of everyone who loves the sport. A wounded Strug being heroically carried in the arms of her coach.
But people who cherish that moment forget a few things. For instance, that struggle was practically a child. That her coaches, Bella and Martha Karolyi came out of the Romanian school of authoritarian control freakishness who would emotionally abused them for making mistakes and routinely humiliate them in front of everyone at the cafeteria table if they were eating too much. Oh, and where did he carry her off to? Larry Nassar. The most insidious, repugnant, monstrous, sexual predator in sports history. That we know of.
I know it is against tough coaching. Of adults. That is a big distinction. Nick Saban can get away with being a bit of a prick to his players because they are freakishly athletic behemoths who’ve graduated high school. Your typical Olympic gymnast is barely out of Toddlers & Tiaras” age, and the sport has some competing on the world stage. And no surprise, it’s not good for a person. As a whole history of Hollywood has taught us a million times over.
Simone Biles is a grown woman. But a woman who’s grown only in that world. And it’s finally gotten to her. Constantly being in the fishbowl. Having NBC cameras focused on her while she’s taping up her ankles or sitting on the bench texting. When she’s on the screen, the eyeballs of America are too. And maybe it’s easy to not have sympathy for someone who literally wears a GOAT logo on her leotard like somehow she should just suck it up and deal. But that’s doing what a sport that, by it’s very nature, has the athletes at their physical peak before they’re even old enough to drive and usually washed up by the time they’re even old enough to vote has been doing forever.
Forgetting Biles is a human being. Just hope she gets the help she needs and give her some compassion.