It’s Not Heroic to Choke and Quit

 

I don’t want to be overly critical of Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the Olympic team’s competitions.  I haven’t followed gymnastics for years, but my impression is that Biles is widely considered to be the greatest female gymnast of all time.  Her ability and achievements are extraordinary.

During the first rotation in the team all-around competition, Biles had a disappointing vault.  She then pulled out of the competition, with varied explanations that seem unconvincing.  It looks, to me, like she briefly lost her mojo.  This would be, here’s that word again, disappointing, but understandable.  Nobody’s perfect.

Biles set herself up for this, to some extent.  She’s sometimes called the GOAT, meaning “greatest of all time.”  She apparently leaned into this hype, like Muhammad Ali, by wearing leotards bearing an image of a goat.  Humility is a wiser course, I think.  But again, I don’t want to dump on Biles, who is quite young and the young rarely display notable wisdom.

The thing that is strange, to me, has been the reaction in much of the media.  The narrative seems to be that Biles quitting was heroic, in order to take care of her “mental health.”  Here’s a sample of this reaction:

  • “The Radical Courage of Simone Biles’s Exit from the Team USA Olympic Finals.”  The New Yorker.
  • “Simone Biles’ Olympic withdrawal could be her greatest act of heroism.”  SBNation.
  • “The world was clamouring for the American to outdo her competitors as well as herself.  It took exceptional bravery for her to step back.”  The Guardian.
  • “As athletes, we’re told to tough it out.  It’s toxic masculinity at work, this idea that we should ignore our emotions and what our body needs.  We call what she did heroic.”  Time.

I dissent, not respectfully (yet).  I do not find it heroic to choke, and I do not find it heroic to quit after choking.

It is understandable, a bit disappointing, fine.  Maybe she was having a bad day, though all that we know is that she had a single bad vault.  Biles might or might not have done well on the remaining events.  We’ll never know, because she gave up.

We do expect more of our heroes.

But it’s the media reaction that is so bizarre, to me.  What in the world is going on here?  Is it just an attack on competence?  Is it the typical resentful, sour-grapes attitude of the ordinary?

Is it the victim narrative?  The silly Time article linked above says that gymnasts “are taught that their bodies are not their own.”  In sport that “sacrifices bodies, minds and lives for perfection.”  What?

Is it because Biles is female?  Is it because she is black? Is it because the media had hyped a black woman as the greatest athlete ever, just unbelievable, wait ’til you see her, she’ll blow your socks off . . . well, not so much.  Not that day.

So, apparently, the media has to lie about it.  To pretend that failure and worse, quitting, is heroic.  I do not see any justification for this narrative, and I do not see any reason to dissent “respectfully.”  I am open to a counter-argument, as perhaps I’m missing something.

Again, I don’t want to beat up on Simone Biles.  She’s had an amazing career.  She appears to have cracked under the pressure, at these particular Olympic Games.  That is sad, but not the end of the world.

You know, even Mighty Casey struck out.  There was no joy in Mudville that day, but that’s OK.  Casey was still a hero, just not a perfect one.

But I don’t recall anything about Casey walking away from the plate after his first strike, or making excuses.  That’s not what heroes do.

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  1. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…

    It’s been a couple of days, and I haven’t seen any commentary here at Ricochet about the disappointing performance of Simone Biles in the Olympic team all-around competition.

     

    Maybe we just don’t care.

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…:

    It’s been a couple of days, and I haven’t seen any commentary here at Ricochet about the disappointing performance of Simone Biles in the Olympic team all-around competition.

    Maybe we just don’t care.

    Beat me to it.

    • #2
  3. dajoho Member
    dajoho
    @dajoho

    JG, I agree wholeheartedly.  She quit, plain and simple.  She quit on herself, her team, and her country.  And as stated above @bobthompson I just don’t care.  I wouldn’t even know if I did not get a news feed here and there.  I haven’t watched one second of the Olympics.  Too bad too,  I really used to like them.   

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I don’t much care about Biles performing poorly, or quitting.  The thing that I found noteworthy was the strange reaction in the media.  It seems to indicate something very rotten in our country.  Not that I found this surprising.

    • #4
  5. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I’ve gone back and forth on this myself. I want to encourage the sort of intestinal fortitude that people draw on to overcome the issues in their “head space.” The modern era has made the “head space” the most important part of a person’s life. But part of being a strong adult person is being able to push through negative thoughts and bad feelings and carry on! Courage, as they say, isn’t being about not being afraid. It’s about doing what you must do even if you are afraid. The general theme applies here, too.

    She is being applauded for not continuing with the competition because of what she was feeling. “Your mental health is more important than some gold medal!” And you know, I can agree with that in principle, but I also don’t think that’s necessarily something worth celebrating. (Nor criticizing her for it, don’t get me wrong.)

    What we seem to lack in the modern era is GUTS. The constitution that soldiers on in spite of the mental or emotional difficulties. That’s what I want to see more of; not just from Biles, but from everyone.

    There’s a big lack of this in our culture, which has elevated feelings and emotions above accomplishment. One now becomes applauded for feeling the right things rather than doing the right thing.

    • #5
  6. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    The media response is predictable.  When commercials tell you that you are strong for wearing adult diapers, the idea of strength and bravery have lost all meaning. 

    This episode took me back tbough to Kerri Shrug’s 1996 vault for the USA team .  She vaulted for the team even though she had torn two ligaments in her ankle to win the gold medal.  I remember her hopping on one foot, tears in her eyes and Bella Karoly carrying her off.  I still remember it after 25 years, as I’m sure do many here.

    I neither condemn nor praise Simone Biles. She is an incredible athlete, but she was not brave.  Practical maybe, but not brave.  She will not be remembered 25 years from now. And that was her choice. 

     

    • #6
  7. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Well, Miss Biles has my sympathy. She has spent many, many hours and years of her young life preparing for her moment of glory in the Olympics, and then just couldn’t face that challenge. I’m sure she is more disappointed in herself than her fans are.

    The media have, on the other hand, once again proven themselves worthy of contempt because of the way they handled themselves on both sides of the “historic” event.

    • #7
  8. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I don’t often agree with Dan McLaughlin, but I pretty much do on this one.

    Fault those who are making her a hero, not Biles.

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    The media response is predictable. When commercials tell you that you are strong for wearing adult diapers, the idea of strength and bravery have lost all meaning.

    This episode took me back tbough to Kerri Shrug’s 1996 vault for the USA team . She vaulted for the team even though she had torn two ligaments in her ankle to win the gold medal. I remember her hopping on one foot, tears in her eyes and Bella Karoly carrying her off. I still remember it after 25 years, as I’m sure do many here.

    Of course, I’ve seen this same moment used to illustrate why Biles’ actions are better. Critics say Strug’s coach pressured her too much, she was weak and gave in to his demands, and her injuries never healed properly as a result.

    For coaches, that’s a fine line to walk: you want to encourage your charges to push through the head space, but you have to know when you’ve pushed too far. (I’m not saying that “too far” was the case with Strug — I’m just sayin’ that this week I saw it used as an example of why Biles made the right choice. )

    • #9
  10. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    Fault those who are making her a hero, not Biles.

    That’s likely also why nothing has been coming up on Ricochet. The Media always meets our expectations.

    • #10
  11. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    I just wanted to say that Rep. Adam Kinzinger is very upset with this post.

    • #11
  12. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    I just wanted to say that Rep. Adam Kinzinger is very upset with this post.

    I’m stealing that.

    • #12
  13. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    I just wanted to say that Rep. Adam Kinzinger is very upset with this post.

    I’m stealing that.

    Get in line.

    • #13
  14. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: Biles is widely considered to be the greatest female gymnast of all time

    Great athletes have bad days.  If she didn’t feel comfortable competing, then it is good she dropped.  Ignore the people calling her a hero.  Ignore anyone that has a bad day in a high-risk sport.  Ignore the false drama that is injected for ratings and clicks. Focus on the fact that her replacement won GOLD in the individual all-around.  Hurray for Suni Lee!  

    Sunisa Lee

    • #14
  15. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I don’t often agree with Dan McLaughlin, but I pretty much do on this one.

    Fault those who are making her a hero, not Biles.

    For those who won’t click-through, Biles appears to be suffering from aerial disorientation. That is, she can’t tell where she is and where the ground is. Biles confirmed this in an interview (which I’ll have to find) that she is indeed suffering from “the twisties,” even noting that her teammates can tell in practice sessions. It may be mental, or partly physical, but she absolutely had to pull out of the competition. I don’t fault her at all, since she could easily end up paralyzed or dead. It is NOT choking!

    (ETA the “choking” bit.)

    • #15
  16. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I feel pretty much the same. But I am also tired of athletes using the “for my mental health” excuse.

    • #16
  17. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    She probably did the right thing by pulling out. In her sport she could get seriously injured if she’s not in the right frame of mind. Doesn’t make her a hero. I don’t get the hero narrative the media thrusts on these athletes for quitting. We’ve seen athletes go thru much worse adversity who not only didn’t quit but succeeded. I can’t even imaging the mental stress that went thru Hank Aaron when he was pursing the home run record while receiving multiple death threats. This was at a time shortly after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and both Kennedy’s. Being a fan of the Utah Jazz I wish Michael Jordan would have taken a sick day when he had the flu and not dropped 38 points on my beloved Jazz. 

    • #17
  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I don’t often agree with Dan McLaughlin, but I pretty much do on this one.

    Fault those who are making her a hero, not Biles.

    For those who won’t click-through, Biles appears to be suffering from aerial disorientation. That is, she can’t tell where she is and where the ground is. Biles confirmed this in an interview (which I’ll have to find) that she is indeed suffering from “the twisties,” even noting that her teammates can tell in practice sessions. It may be mental, or partly physical, but she absolutely had to pull out of the competition. I don’t fault her at all, since she could easily end up paralyzed or dead. it is NOT choking!

    I’m skeptical of this.  Can you explain the difference between “the twisties” and just not having your head in the game?

    I also don’t think that Biles’ explanations have been consistent, but I don’t want to spend time litigating that particular issue.  Though go ahead, if you like.  I’m more interested in the strange media reaction.

    • #18
  19. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…:

    It’s been a couple of days, and I haven’t seen any commentary here at Ricochet about the disappointing performance of Simone Biles in the Olympic team all-around competition.

     

    Maybe we just don’t care.

    So why comment on something you don’t care about?

    • #19
  20. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I don’t much care about Biles performing poorly, or quitting. The thing that I found noteworthy was the strange reaction in the media. It seems to indicate something very rotten in our country. Not that I found this surprising.

    The media instinctively feel obliged to fawn over minorities, merely because they are minorities. If one chokes and quits, that instinct doesn’t go away. So whether they quit or not, the media fawns. It’s just a question of what they’re fawning about.

    I think it’s as simple as that. They’re not trying to glorify quitting. Although that may be an unforeseen bonus from their perspective.

    • #20
  21. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Sunisa “Suni” Lee from St Paul, Minnesota wins the Gold! In the meantime…the gold medal in the women’s all-around gymnastics final was won by Suni Lee.

    My first thought when hearing about Simone Biles’ withdrawing from the Olympics was that she let her team down egregiously. Then, upon further consideration, I thought that this isn’t golf and the Ryder Cup. Gymnastics is obviously intensely physical and highly dangerous if one is not focused, and so maybe I should cut her some slack. And then here comes Suni Lee and she wins the All-around Gold for the Americans even without Biles. So, none of us know what is going on with a young woman who just gave up her place in history as the G.O.A.T. female gymnast, and without that knowledge, I will not judge. But it is a real shame. 

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):
    I neither condemn nor praise Simone Biles. She is an incredible athlete, but she was not brave.  Practical maybe, but not brave.  She will not be remembered 25 years from now. And that was her choice. 

    I agree with this comment throughout. She did what she felt she needed to do, and since she could have gravely hurt herself, I’m glad she pulled out. Yes, maybe she could have pulled out earlier, but I know she felt the pressure of following through. As GC says, it was a practical decision but not heroic.

    • #22
  23. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    cdor (View Comment):

    Sunisa “Suni” Lee from St Paul, Minnesota wins the Gold! In the meantime…the gold medal in the women’s all-around gymnastics final was won by Suni Lee.

    My first thought when hearing about Simone Biles’ withdrawing from the Olympics was that she let her team down egregiously. Then, upon further consideration, I thought that this isn’t golf and the Ryder Cup. Gymnastics is obviously intensely physical and highly dangerous if one is not focused, and so maybe I should cut her some slack. And then here comes Suni Lee and she wins the All-around Gold for the Americans even without Biles. So, none of us know what is going on with a young woman who just gave up her place in history as the G.O.A.T. female gymnast, and without that knowledge, I will not judge. But it is a real shame.

    Suni Lee won the individual all-around, which was great.  Good for her, good for the country.  She did a great job.

    Biles’ withdrawal affected the team all-around competition, in which the US won the silver and the Russians(-but-not-really-the-Russians) won gold.

    • #23
  24. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    The Leftist BLM media was all set up to coronate Biles as the Gymnast GOAT, so even though she laid an egg, they were going forward with their story line because she is Black, oppressed and thus did not get the media glory she should have. Thus, they forced a backlash that she is NOT the GOAT by saying ‘no mas’. We can be sympathetic to Bile’s pressure and issue but don’t then shove her GOAT status down our throats. She’s not because she couldn’t handle the pressure. Just ask a real GOAT, Michael Jordan. 

    • #24
  25. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I don’t often agree with Dan McLaughlin, but I pretty much do on this one.

    Fault those who are making her a hero, not Biles.

    For those who won’t click-through, Biles appears to be suffering from aerial disorientation. That is, she can’t tell where she is and where the ground is. Biles confirmed this in an interview (which I’ll have to find) that she is indeed suffering from “the twisties,” even noting that her teammates can tell in practice sessions. It may be mental, or partly physical, but she absolutely had to pull out of the competition. I don’t fault her at all, since she could easily end up paralyzed or dead. it is NOT choking!

    I’m skeptical of this. Can you explain the difference between “the twisties” and just not having your head in the game?

    I also don’t think that Biles’ explanations have been consistent, but I don’t want to spend time litigating that particular issue. Though go ahead, if you like. I’m more interested in the strange media reaction.

    Here you go, Jerry. Believe it or don’t believe it. Neither one of us is putting our physical being in danger as is Biles.

    • #25
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Here’s the math on Team USA’s hypothetical performance, had Biles competed in the team all-around.

    Biles had the highest combined score, of any gymnast, in the qualification round.  In the team finals, as I understand it, each team chooses three women (out of the team of four) to compete in each of four events.  Based on her qualification scores, I would have expected Biles to have competed in all four events in the team all-around.

    Would it have made a difference?  I hadn’t previously checked the math, and we can’t know for sure, but here’s an analysis.

    Vault: Biles did compete in the vault.

    Uneven bars: Biles scored a 14.566 in the qualifying round.  Jordan Chiles had the lowest score in the qualifying round, so I assume that she would have been left out of this event.  Chiles did well, scoring a 14.166.  If Biles had competed in the final, and received the same score as in the qualifying round, Team USA would have done 0.400 better.

    Balance beam:  Biles scored a 14.066 in the qualifying round.  Again, Chiles was lowest, so she  presumably would have been excluded if Biles competed in the final.  Chiles scored 13.433 in the final.  If Biles had competed in the final, and received the same score as in the qualifying round, Team USA would have done better by 0.633. 

    Floor exercise: Biles scored a 14.133 in the qualifying round.  Suni Lee was lowest in the qualifying round, so she presumably would have been excluded if Biles had competed in the final.  Lee scored 13.666 in the final.  If Biles had competed in the final, and received the same score as in the qualifying round, Team USA would have done better by 0.467.

    That’s a total hypothetical improvement of 1.5 points in the total team score.  Team USA lost by 3.432 points.

    Based on this hypothetical, it does not appear that Biles’ presence would have caused Team USA to win the gold. 

     

    • #26
  27. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    Sunisa “Suni” Lee from St Paul, Minnesota wins the Gold! In the meantime…the gold medal in the women’s all-around gymnastics final was won by Suni Lee.

    My first thought when hearing about Simone Biles’ withdrawing from the Olympics was that she let her team down egregiously. Then, upon further consideration, I thought that this isn’t golf and the Ryder Cup. Gymnastics is obviously intensely physical and highly dangerous if one is not focused, and so maybe I should cut her some slack. And then here comes Suni Lee and she wins the All-around Gold for the Americans even without Biles. So, none of us know what is going on with a young woman who just gave up her place in history as the G.O.A.T. female gymnast, and without that knowledge, I will not judge. But it is a real shame.

    Suni Lee won the individual all-around, which was great. Good for her, good for the country. She did a great job.

    Biles’ withdrawal affected the team all-around competition, in which the US won the silver and the Russians(-but-not-really-the-Russians) won gold.

    Yes, I realize that. With Biles performing in her normal fashion the American team was expected to win the team Gold medal.

    P.S.

    But as you just put some math to the subject, the USA women might not have won, even with Biles. So maybe Biles did the prudent thing by withdrawing.

    • #27
  28. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    W Bob (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I don’t much care about Biles performing poorly, or quitting. The thing that I found noteworthy was the strange reaction in the media. It seems to indicate something very rotten in our country. Not that I found this surprising.

    The media instinctively feel obliged to fawn over minorities, merely because they are minorities. If one chokes and quits, that instinct doesn’t go away. So whether they quit or not, the media fawns. It’s just a question of what they’re fawning about.

    I think it’s as simple as that. They’re not trying to glorify quitting. Although that may be an unforeseen bonus from their perspective.

    I would say it goes beyond that.  There is an element of “being in touch with yourself” here, as well as the sense that “competition should be secondary to the personal.”   Those are media and cultural faves.

    • #28
  29. Dave of Barsham Member
    Dave of Barsham
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I don’t often agree with Dan McLaughlin, but I pretty much do on this one.

    Fault those who are making her a hero, not Biles.

    For those who won’t click-through, Biles appears to be suffering from aerial disorientation. That is, she can’t tell where she is and where the ground is. Biles confirmed this in an interview (which I’ll have to find) that she is indeed suffering from “the twisties,” even noting that her teammates can tell in practice sessions. It may be mental, or partly physical, but she absolutely had to pull out of the competition. I don’t fault her at all, since she could easily end up paralyzed or dead. It is NOT choking!

    (ETA the “choking” bit.)

    I haven’t been watching the Olympics, but this came up in a couple of places that I read the news and I eventually settled on two things. First, if you’ve got the “twisties” and you pull out of the Olympic games because of it, just say that. Stop with the “headspace,” “pressure,” “insert term to get sympathy from reporting,” stuff.  “I’m sorry everyone, I’ve got the “twisties,” and I can’t keep track of where I am in the air all of a sudden. I’d play through but could really seriously injure myself and as much as I’d love to say I could keep going for my country, I just can’t.”  That’s it. Done. How hard is that? Why in the name of all that is good do you lead with all the other garbage, it just makes things worse.

    Second, the media is mostly to blame for all of this. From playing her up as the “goat” of gymnastics in the lead up (though her embrace of it so far as to even get that put on her leotard is on her), to the “Akshuallllly, it’s super brave and she’s so awesome and brave for quitting,” thing.  It’s not a disgrace to bow out when you have to for a legitimate reason, but it’s not awesome bravery either. She shouldn’t be crapped on, but she shouldn’t be treated like some superstar. I think it’s the last part, how it was covered after, that really set people off.

    • #29
  30. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    thelonious (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…:

    It’s been a couple of days, and I haven’t seen any commentary here at Ricochet about the disappointing performance of Simone Biles in the Olympic team all-around competition.

     

    Maybe we just don’t care.

    So why comment on something you don’t care about?

    I saw the post and the question was about Ricochet members. I used to never miss any telecast of Olympic events and now I watch nothing. I think plenty of Ricochet members understand why that is. So that was my comment in response to Jerry’s query.

    • #30