Evanson: Simone Biles did quit, but she's not the problem, we are
Simone Biles quit. That's indisputable.
But that's not the whole story.
The 32-time combined medalist at the World Championships and Olympic Games said she was battling a bout of the "twisties." That's a gymnastic term for a mental condition that causes performers to lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air.
I don't doubt her. Biles has spent the bulk of her life competing. Her reputation speaks for itself, and it doesn't mesh with what some tried to portray her as after she withdrew from the Olympic team competition between vaults late last month.
Quitting is not a decision, it's a mindset — and you don't get to where she's been, or accomplish what she's accomplished, operating with that mentality.
It's easy to assume. With Biles — much like with so many things these days — people sought not the truth, but rather whatever supported their preconceptions.
For reasons beyond me, people love to see the mighty fall. They want you to be good, but not too good. They want you to win, but not too much. And they want you to succeed, until you do, then they crave your failure as much if not more than your success they sought to begin with. They want it so much that they're willing to do anything to see it happen — even ignoring obvious truth.
When it came to Biles, it was less about what we knew, and more so what we thought. Those assumptions were based not on her experience, but rather ours.
And I'm guilty as charged.
Instinctively, I didn't like what I saw. At first glance, it seemed selfish, weak, unbecoming of someone involved in a team competition. I heard what I thought were excuses from Biles and her camp, rather than the reasons they ultimately were.
Who'd heard of the "twisties," anyway?
That's my mistake. I saw fear and anxiety and discounted those as legitimate reasons for Biles to withdraw. I assumed — based on my experience, not hers.
But in time, and with research and an open mind, I was able to better understand her plight. At the least, I must amend my view on what truly was a legitimate and complicated situation. That doesn't make me Einstein, Voltaire or Copernicus. But if nothing else, I'm owning up to it, and I wish more people like me — who assumed the worst, before realizing we were wrong — would do the same.
Life isn't easy, and anyone who tells you it is either hasn't lived it or is still feeding from a bottle. It's definitely not easy for Simone Biles. Even one of gymnastics' true greats is not immune to the dangerous tricks the mind can play.
And even if we aren't running the risk of losing control midway through a double salto, our minds can play dangerous tricks on us, too: deceiving us into thinking we know more than we do, saying more than we know, and judging people we have no standing to judge.
It's never been cool to be wrong, but admitting so has always been a part of getting things right.
People will believe almost anything these days, as long as it either builds or backs their case. Conspiracies are not only surviving today — they're thriving like never before. From serious topics such as COVID-19 and election fraud, to more mundane subject matter such as NBA officiating and deflated footballs, people will listen if it's what they want to hear.
"We've never been dumber," people say. But to the contrary, I assert that stupidity is not our problem — pride and ignorance are. We're not dumb, it's that we're so damn "smart." We know it all. Except when we don't.
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