Michael Smith first wrote:
“I say put mental health first, because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. It’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and a person that you really are, rather than just battle through it.”
Says Simone Biles.
What I’m about to say may not be very popular, but if you have read my stuff for any period of time, you know I tend to say what I am thinking.
I feel sorry for her, but more sorry for her teammates. Her statement just seems to be the antithesis of the traditional American spirit.
Biles is a not a kid, she is 24. She is an adult. She indicated in an interview last night that she was feeling fear. Fear of injury, fear of making a mistake, fear of letting her teammates down.
So, she didn’t saddle up. Her mental toughness is gone. I’ve seen this before in people, they become so paralyzed with fear that they can’t even act. It is a from of PTSD or the old version known as “shell shock” – but the Biles situation isn’t a life threatening one. This is a sport.
But it isn’t just Biles – maybe she is the most famous example of it, but I have known young adults to not show up for work, calling out sick and claiming they had such a stressful week, they needed a “mental health day.”.
Somehow I can’t imagine a Chinese or Russian athlete walking away from a competition and you know, those CIA and US Army advertisements celebrating mental weakness and wokeness as desirable characteristics for intelligence employees and soldiers didn’t fill me with confidence.
Biles should not be disparaged for doing what she thought she needed to do for herself, but she damn sure should not be celebrated for it either. She let down her team and an entire country.
I am left to wonder if this is an example of the new America in the hands of the Biles generation, that they just don’t think they should “battle through” when things get tough.
May God have mercy on our souls if that what we have wrought.”
Then Smith wrote:
Many have criticized my comments about Simone Biles. That’s fair – but I have a personal reason for my opinion.
In the late 90’s the business I was part of failed. I was unemployed and dead broke, loaded with debt and with a wife and three kids to feed and literally no food in the house. I can imagine that kind of stress is at least equivalent to what Biles feels. Yet, I didn’t quit.
I couldn’t quit. My family depended on me.
I couldn’t find a job in my field at a comparable level so I turned to skills I learned working in construction from college, doing anything I could to make money to feed my kids. I didn’t give up, I wasn’t embarrassed to take any job I could find.
I clawed my way back over the past 30 years.
That’s real life. I know other people share a similar story. Rare are people who have never faced setbacks in life. Some buckle down and get things done, some people quit – on their families, their teams and themselves.
That has real and immediate consequences, so people will have to pardon me if I am harsh toward an athlete who quits for “mental health” reasons. She has been supported all her life by other people because she can do things nobody else can – and now she can’t (or won’t) do those things.
I don’t know her, and I have said she has the right to do whatever she wants to do and for whatever reason (or no reason at all), but again, she doesn’t just get to escape the consequences – people forming opinions of her or the real impact to her family and her teammates.
We all are entitled to our opinions, but now she is out of the individual competition as well, her legacy will forever be that she quit.
She doesn’t deserve denigration – but by the same token, she sure as hell shouldn’t be celebrated for quitting. Many are celebrating her for “living her truth” and “taking care of herself.”
I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I’m sorry for her problems but she performs in a sport that is basically entertainment, as all sports are to one degree or another. All sports, especially the Olympics, are luxury appendages of a prosperous world. They are nice, but not necessary, so maybe this doesn’t deserve the attention it is getting
Whether Simone Biles ever competes again will not change my world one iota. The fact remains that the behavior of elite athletes in several sports are making me not care about things I once enjoyed and supported (my wife, daughter and I volunteered and worked in the 2002 Salt Lake Games).
A friend once told me that society will forgive anything except going broke. The fact is that I’ll forever carry the stigma of being broke and bankrupt, but I will never be called a quitter.