The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – November 22, 2019

A. It’s All Bad

Big news on the USAG-being-terrible front: a WSJ article from Louise Radnofsky specifically delves into how information about the investigation of That Guy was withheld from Simone—and how information that Simone was a likely victim was in turn withheld from the FBI.

At the heart of all of this is Steve Penny’s (and by extension USAG’s) obsession with stage managing and manipulating everything the athletes did, using them as pawns for the benefit of himself and USAG. We see it as a pattern of behavior permeating everything, from Penny’s using Simone for his own gain by bringing her to that daughter’s party, to the truly horrendous idea that he would act as Simone’s agent to ensure he could exploit her to make as much money as possible off of her success.

So then of course he would stage manage the investigation of That Guy in exactly the same way. Because if you view athletes as tangible assets rather than autonomous human beings, you’re not going to see the problem in withholding information about an investigation that directly affects them, or not reporting their abuse to authorities. You sell off that asset, you protect this asset, you hide this asset in a secret account. Whatever suits your aims. They’re just objects, after all.

It’s truly depressing how beholden the athletes were made to feel to Penny, part of a wider infection of “you would be nothing without me” manipulation that is so rife in gymnastics, from the micro level—coach-to-athlete in gyms—to the macro level with Steve Penny.

This whole scenario also makes me think about the revolted impression I have when we see USAG employees to this day doing the physical pushing and pulling and grabbing and directing of female athletes to move them into the positions they want them to be in. Part of the reason for that revulsion—secondary to the general unwanted touching and violation of personal space—is the physical manifestation it provides of an organization that has treated the athletes like game pieces to be moved around and manipulated to suit various strategic ends, for which the benefit, needs, or preferences of the athlete are never considered.

This news has also renewed calls for an actual, real, widespread investigation to uncover everything. Because we’re all so sick of the trickle of information. It’s been three years.

B. Full Out

Now that we got the sad, responsible, newsy part out of the way, we get to do the fun part. Because the trailer for Full Out 2: Brenna Ruined My Life is out, and it’s exactly as terribinsane as you wanted it to be.

OK, first of all, the subtitle of this sequel is “You Got This!” in a font that I think is called Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, so we’re already in self-parody territory.

I’m not wild about the KJ casting. She’s bringing a little too much “twice-divorced, my dinner is wine” energy to the role.

KJ is surprised that Brenna can do a double front piked. Because you know that thing where you recruit athletes you’ve never seen before who have also already been on the team for a year at this point?

Let’s talk about these movies’ fascination with “finding some new moves.” Yes. The moves. FIND THEM. Search under every rock for an ending pose. It is the key to beating Florida.

Please, we all know that every move you’ve ever needed was already emblazoned onto your soul by the power of KJ Kindler’s stare.

The most important part of college is your first time learning what break dancing is.

That part where Cocaine-Energy-Tom-Haley mansplains to KJ what winning and nationals are.

I listened to that falling-on-a-scale sound effect 12 times. Still funny.

I need a really cool move to end my floor routine. I know! It’s going to be a layout stepout with a hidey back leg that would get .05 off at home and .10 on the road. “I approve of this” – No KJ ever

Nadia, who brings a lower-third with her everywhere she goes, coming in with the wisdom: “The secret to confidence and many repetitions.” The end. NADIA MAKES ANOTHER CHAMPION.

Y’all, Natalie Brown competed in the 2015 season too, so don’t give me this shit.

We’re really playing fast and loose with the races of these athletes if I heard right that it was “Nico” participating in that break-dance fight?

As we all know, Oklahoma hosted nationals in 2016 in front of a fully empty arena. History facts.

Girl, no one came in for Nicole at nationals. That’s not a thing.

“I’ve never competed in a meet before!
“What?”
“I’m a farmer!”
“Then how did you get here?”
“WHERE’S HERE?????”

When you win a championship you have to IMMEDIATELY go line dancing. NCAA regs.

C. NCAA News

  • Speaking of OU, the Oklahoma women’s team and Stanford men’s team went to the White House because they won the winning things last season, which always provokes some internet getting-worked-up about it. I’m not that worked up about it. I obviously wouldn’t go (and definitely wouldn’t have gone in college, when “taking a showy political stand on something” is like the main thing), but there are any number of reasons people would choose to go to this White House after winning a championship, from being super into putting non-white kids in cages, to viewing it as an honor regardless—and an honor bestowed by the country rather than the occupant of the WH, to just wanting to be with their team and celebrate their accomplishments together, to not having a choice in the matter. But there should always be a choice in the matter.
  • If you’re not aggressively attuned to Cottbus (get out of my house?), Iowa State’s Andrea Maldonado debuted a front 3/1, which will be named after her in the elite CoP. There are several videos of this rolling around, but I feel like only Bram correctly captured the essence.
  • Courtney Loper no longer appears on Denver’s roster for the 2020 season.

D. The Forster House Rules

In actual gymnastics stuff, Tom Forster did a…thing…for International Gymnast’s Facebook page, where he talked about problems with the code of points and proposed some solutions. And it was hilarious.

It’s the subject of this week’s first GymCastic episode, as we mostly tear these proposals to shreds and point out the rather obvious logical flaws with the idea of, you know, just crediting every skill anyone attempts or not deducting US routines for artistry.

E. Housekeeping

I’ve added a “Do You Have a Link For…?” page to the top menu, so if I ever have a link for something, and you’re looking for a link for something, it will be there.

I’ll be live blogging the finals from Cottbus this weekend, starting at 8am ET, 5am PT both days.

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