In 1996 at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, gymnast Kerri Strug, only 18, suffered an injury to her foot, in what become now known as an unnecessary competition as they had already clinched the gold. But she was more or unless forced to do it.
At that time, Simone Biles wasn’t born yet. Her mother probably just got the news she was pregnant. But now, Biles is doing what Strug should’ve done and said no.
In America, we push athletes too much. I covered sports. And If I ever lived lived to be 109, I will never cover another sporting event again. I remember one time seeing an old-timer’s baseball game where the pitcher threw the ball and even Harry Doyle would’ve said “Just a little bit outside.”
Yes, the ball went almost toward the dugout. But the pitcher had probably thrown pitches millions times before. Our bodies can only do so much for so long.
Many professional athletes, especially those who play football, retire in their late 20s or mid-30s. And they’re lucky if they don’t have multiple surgeries or CTE.
While other professional athletes in baseball and basketball or even hockey can last into their 40s, it’s only a matter of time before they got to stop before it kills them. And I’m not saying that figuratively.
Considering that the NCAA and other college sports associations put heavy restrictions on student athletes even getting a Gatorade or Powerade that isn’t paid through a booster club fund or special encumbered line item set in place months ahead, many student athletes are graduating with a degree with permanent injury at 22.
And they have absolutely no help or assistance. All medical expenses must be paid them or their families individually. They also can lose their scholarships as well.
Yet we push them to do the best at their jobs. We only do this because they’re young and we think they can do it.
A friend of mine from high school was very healthy and athletic but aside from track and field, baseball and wrestling, his father strictly forbid both him and his brother All it takes is some 275-pound linebacker to come charging at you and hit you in your left side and you piss blood for the rest of the month.
But hey, at least you’re winning a district title or on your way to regionals. Part of the reason I don’t like covering sports is how these coaches treat their players. I’ve witnessed verbal abuse and even physical abuse. And I didn’t say anything because I know I’d lose my job and the knuckle-draggers from the town would possibly vandalize my car or my body.
Scenes depicted in All The Right Moves and Varsity Blues are real. Coaches will do whatever it’s necessary to win and they will blame players for not executing plays flawlessly. Even D-Day had major flaws and that took months, if not years, of planning.
But I won’t put up with it anymore. I don’t know how some parents can sit up in the stands and watch these people berate their children in front of everyone, especially knowing that their taxpayers are paying for the salary. Some parents think it builds their confidence. Kids today are too soft. No, kids shouldn’t have to be screamed at and manhandled and you’re not a good parent if you let someone else treat your child or any other child like this.
Many coaches are doing it to get back at the children of the better athletes. There was a coach in my hometown who wasn’t too well liked. I found out from a family friend it was because he wasn’t always the starter when he played in his youth and couldn’t take constructive criticism.
Public opinion has changed in the years and it’s amazing President Obama was still in office. Usually changes like these take a couple of generations. Considering that the school had a Stubenville scandal where a few football players were accused of sexual assault, I wonder why. The same thing happened in my home town of Calhoun, Georgia.
This might be another reason, people aren’t glamorizing athletes the same way they use to. In the olden days when I was in school, not even 25 years ago, athletes had a permanent Get Out Of Jail Free card it seemed. Everything was dismissed as “Boys Will Be Boys.”
I think even the cheerleaders of my school were expecting to pay out of their own pockets “special treats and goody bags” for the football players. And they used to brag about how they would get free meals from the local restaurants. And like in Varsity Blues, I’m sure a few people would give them free alcoholic drinks.
Now, athletes like Biles and Strug are under scrutiny because they’re women, young and in Biles’ case, black.
People expect BIPOC to be excel as athletes and in some schools, it’s the only way they’ll get attention without being ignored by prejudiced teachers and administrators.
And I’m sure people are going to be quick to criticize Biles. It’s happening already. But she has hurt her body and it causes mental stress. There’s also the added anxiety of expecting to perform while hurt, knowing that if you don’t win, they’ll blame you for not doing your best.
For those out there who don’t remember, there was recently a scandal involving that evil pig vomit scum Larry Nassar, who sexually abused many athletes. It was all covered up, because the need for be number one in athletics is far better than the pain, suffering and trauma hundreds of young women were subjecting to.
At 24, she is the most decorated American gymnast. That’s a lot of stress and anxiety to put on someone that age. Let’s remember, she’s still young and doesn’t need to damage her body any worse.
Of course, there are the chest thumpers who will come out talking about how they “worked through pain” and didn’t get anything more put a drink from the garden hose at the end of practice. What they don’t realize is they were abused by their elders.
For some people, they have to live vicariously through their kids and some adults are still chasing that dream that if they hit that home-run or caught that game-winning pass, their lives would’ve been totally different. Personally, I can tell you, that NO ONE remembers. Maybe after a few years, people will talk about a play in a game. But that’s it.
For some reason, we decided to turn everything in to a competition and I do mean everything. In the town I used to work as a news reporter, they started having the Trunk-or-Treat since many of the kids lived out in the country. Well, it took them all of two years to turn it into a competition to see who has the best Halloween costumes in their age categories. Next thing, the costume competitions are taking up too much time. People are getting angry because their kids didn’t get a $15 gift card to McDonald’s. Social media posts are talking about cheating. All the fun of the event was sucked out of it.
Yes, people compete in sports on the likelihood they’ll win or place in a category. But we went overboard. Professional athletes are paid high salaries but we expect them to move mountains.
I personally think some parents/legal guardians are expecting their children to be their bloody retirement annuities. From an early age, they’re forcing them into sports in hopes that one day, they will go on to the big universities and then into the big leagues. For what? To buy a mansion for them?
Many professional athletes do just that but don’t have the extra money to afford the upkeep or even the taxes so after a few years of living high on the hog, they go back to their regular lives. I’m not saying all athletes are dumb, but money makes you make dumb choices.
It’s a literal political and demographical divide among the people who are commenting on Biles. I support her. Others support her. But mostly dudebro white men with Oakley sunglasses and ball caps are the ones quick to criticize her for her decisions.
But are they any better?
Criticizing Biles for her decision is no different than 20 years ago where we went after Britney Spears. I don’t want to see a #FreeSimone movement.
Times are a changing. And like the line from Cool Runnings, “People are afraid of change.”
I wish Biles all the best. America doesn’t always have to win at everything. That’s why we are at the crossroads in our history between older generations feeling that any defeat is the end of the world and younger generations being humble.
Sometimes you just have to quit. You have to quit the job you don’t like, You have to quit the relationships you’re in.
That is how you truly become stronger and win in the end.