Things Are Happening – August 22, 2020

A. AGREE TO DISAGREE

Yesterday, Alyssa Beckerman posted the Google Doc we’ve been waiting for our entire lives, her account of some of the emotional manipulation and callousness she experienced during her time as a cast member on The Miss Val Show and what went down prior to her much-discussed removal from the team.

At this point, I just want to know where I can preorder the hardback.

Alyssa’s account illuminates some of the inherent contradictions of the Miss Val Positive Coaching Retirement Tour (smyoosh that like button if you’re old enough to remember when Miss Val wasn’t considered “the warm and fuzzy healthy coach”) and pulls back the curtain on how the power dynamics and inherited bad advice in college gym can lead to equally toxic environments as elite. But in addition to that, it’s simply nice to get (part of) the story of Alyssa’s gymnastics saga from her own perspective, rather than from all the other very not-Alyssa, antagonistic perspectives we got during her competitive career.

We’ve been through this before, but the gymnastics-NBC-complex’s treatment of Alyssa was among the worst ever. And that’s a really deep category. The way she was spoken about—in public, on television—during the 2000 process was flat-out ugly. I mean, “sometimes Alyssa has too many windows open, and she leaves the drapes open as well” is branded on my brain forever, but actually what the hell kind of thing is that to say about someone during your trials broadcast? We, as viewers, were told many things about Alyssa’s personality and behavior and what was wrong with it by a lot of people—MLT, NBC, Val—all of whom weren’t Alyssa.

At the time, she didn’t have much avenue through which to tell her own story and say, “Hey. Wh–. Hey.” Not the case anymore.

As for Miss Val, her recent outspoken criticism of the current culture in gymnastics, as well as the acknowledgment of her own coaching failures, has been as welcome as it is rare among those actually entrenched in the US gymnastics community. You hope the sentiment is genuine, but either way it doesn’t change the experience of athletes like Alyssa, who clearly needed Miss Val to be a different coach than she was and didn’t deserve to be simply the fodder for Miss Val to learn whatever coaching life lesson she’s telling us she learned in the aftermath.

Val posted an apolog-ish on twitter, and…it’s a thing that’s there.

So, I know it would be petty and unhelpful, but I also really need Alyssa to reply “agree to disagree.” I NEED it.

B. Gymnast alliance

Athletes sharing their stories as part of the gymnast alliance shows no signs of slowing down (almost like the sport has a widespread problem!), and we’ll see if Alyssa’s statement prompts even more college athletes from different eras to speak. I’m sure the interpersonally toxic Gretchen Wieners of it all that Alyssa described in her time at UCLA is sadly par for the course at the top college programs.

It can be difficult to keep track of everyone’s statements, but I did want to highlight this one in particular. Reminder: Dan Baker from Stars is the current elite development coordinator, the one who replaced MLT after her 3-nanosecond tenure.

C. It’s getting baddddd out there

Over the last couple days, two college gymnastics programs have received the ax.

Sadly unsurprisingly, Alaska announced that it will be cutting the women’s gymnastics program at the end of the 2021 season. The gymnastics team has been on life support for the last couple years, and the mass exodus of gymnasts and coaches this summer seemed to indicate that things were moving in a specific direction. We’ll always have M’rcy Matsunami and Sophia Hyderally.

An identical fate will befall the Iowa men’s program at the conclusion of the 2021 season, a devastating blow to men’s college gym since Iowa is one of…you know…the few remaining large DI gymnastics programs. It emphasizes that there are no safe men’s NCAA programs—and really only a handful of safe NCAA women’s programs.

I’m sure everything will continue getting worse. Happy Saturday.

D. Wang Yan retires

Wang Yan announced her retirement this week.

Wang was part of the 2015 worlds and 2016 Olympics teams for China, winning team medals at both events. She burst onto the scene as a new senior in 2015, bringing much-needed, high-scoring VT/FX options to a team that was feeling very “what’s a floor routine,” reaching the AA, vault, and beam (!) finals at that first worlds. At the 2016 Olympics, Wang finished 6th in the all-around final and reached the vault and floor finals. Wang last competed at worlds in 2017, where she again reached the vault and all-around finals.

E. GymCastic

441: Gymnastics Commentary Hall of Shame (Commissioned) GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast

WATCH HERE Club Gym Nerd members can watch the podcast being recorded (pre-edits with all the bloopers and blunders that don’t make it onto the final show) and see video clips of the gymnastics while we discuss. This week’s episode has been commissioned by AnnaMarie, who asked for an episode all about gymnastics commentators—the good, the bad, and the ugly. TBH, we mostly did the ugly part. HALL OF SHAME Sexually inappropriate comments about minors: Nope. Sexually inappropriate comments about adults: Double nope. Infantilizing adults and calling them little girls: Triple nope. Weight Shaming: The Monica Phelps Chapter Being weirdly obsessed with adoption: The Al Trautwig Chapter Tragic moments in college commentary Tragic moments in putting on accents GYMCASTIC’S OFFICIAL BROADCAST DOs and DON’Ts 18 Dos and (mostly) Don’ts for gymnastics broadcasts concerning comparing gymnasts to dented cars, being the smile police, “Bela’s girls,” and talking about a gymnast’s “personality.” BANNED WORDS AND PHRASES From “supple” to “weight” to “international look” to “ancient” to “4 inches wide,” we have some words and phrases that are hereby banned from gymnastics commentary. The most important message for any commentator to reiterate before they begin broadcasts re smashing the patriarchy for the witches they couldn’t burn. WE HAVE A NEW PODCAST On Gymnastics International, we’ll take a deep dive into the latest competitions from around the world, covering them with the depth and detail we typically only reserve for US women’s elite competitions. Because national borders are stupid. This week: Japanese and Chinese Nationals! JOIN CLUB GYM NERD Join Club Gym Nerd for access to Behind the Scenes episodes and video of our podcasts. Buy our awesome clothing and gifts here. We have masks too! RELATED EPISODES Olly Hogben Interview Kathy Johnson Interview 440: Chinese Gymnastics Team Trainer: Annemarie Alf DPT, CSCS 439: The Curious Case of the Extra Urine
  1. 441: Gymnastics Commentary Hall of Shame (Commissioned)
  2. Gymnastics International Episode 1: Chinese and Japanese Nationals
  3. 440: Chinese Gymnastics Team Trainer Annemarie Alf DPT, CSCS
  4. 439: The Curious Case of the Extra Urine
  5. 258: The Fluff Cast (Commissioned)

In the most recent episode, we discuss the Texas Dreams fallout, D-D Breaux’s retirement, and NCAA lineup racism.

93 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – August 22, 2020”

    1. I really hope there will be an ACTUAL discussion about Alyssa Beckerman’s open letter and directly related matters on the Gymcastic podcast this week.

      I was disappointed when the Maria Claire story broke last year because I thought it posed a number of the kinds of questions that the podcast so great at taking a in-depth look at/sharing their uniquely informed opinions on.

      But when I listened that week the only mention of the subject was in a highly abbreviated monologue by Uncle Tim as Jessica opted not to share any thoughts or comments, citing a conflict of interest in light of her husbands involvement in Miss Val’s recently published book.

      I understand the conflict of interest (and with the Maria Caire story there was far less to unpack), but I feel like, when it comes to Beckerman’s #gymnastalliance post, particularly as it’s come directly on the heels of the Athlete “A” documentary on Netflix, ESPN’s “Heavy Medals” podcast and so many brave British gymnasts recently speaking out about their experiences (the former having a direct link to Alyssa’s post as Miss Val was scheduled to participate in a post-film panel discussion on positive coaching that has now been postponed as a result of these developments), these issues are highly pertinent right now.

      I don’t think it’s giving the matter adequate weight or attention to simply do what they did with the last development that called into question Miss Val’s coaching tenure at UCLA. Especially since it’s been widely suggested that there could be other UCLA alumni coming forward in days to come. If Jessica isn’t able to participate in discussions of this nature when they involve allegations against Miss Val, then I hope she would consider allowing someone else to possibly take her place during the discussion with Tim so that there can be more of an exchange of thoughts. That way the podcast can this matter the same in-depth treatment that it usually gives matters like it (when anyone else is at the center of the controversy).

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      1. It was Spencer, not Tim. 🙂 And my beef with the Caire situation wasn’t that Jessica didn’t talk (although she doesn’t exactly have the conflict of interest part right). It’s that she basically muzzled Spencer by plopping that discussion at the end of a long show and running out the clock with her unnecessarily long monologue about why she wasn’t talking.

        I hope that this time around, Jessica will pause and ask herself exactly *why* Val cultivated a relationship with a podcaster, including creating significant financial entanglements. Jessica has said that Larry Nassar groomed her — it can be argued that Val did the same.

        (I am not suggesting that Val’s actions, if true, are in the same league as Nassar’s. Just that they may have manipulated Jessica in similar ways for their own ends).

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      2. Omg I can’t believe I did that, for some reason when I’m thinking about the gymnastic podcast in conjunction with BBSituation, I always say ‘Uncle Tim’ when I’m meaning ‘Spencer’ and vise versa. The homeschooling of 5&6yr olds has done a number on my brain in recent months… 😐

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      3. But yes, I completely agree with you re: the running out of the clock etc.—I couldn’t remember all of the details off of the top of my head. I also wasn’t necessarily bothered by Jessica choice not to contribute in itself, and more that without any exchange of opinions/thoughts on the issue, the matter felt reduced to an afterthought or sort of side note, when I thought it raised questions that deserved much more of a spotlight, particularly given how gymcastic has always handled matters of this nature in the past.

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      4. Interesting points about Val’s having cultivated the relationship she did with their podcasters/ recruited Jessica’s husband for her book. I’m not sure she would have been able to anticipate that their relationship would have ended up working to her advantage in quite this way, however I’m sure that many of the other benefits of hiring the spouse of an influential gymnastic podcaster to co-write your book about coaching gymnastics were not lost on her when she made that decision…

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      5. As a UCLA employee Val would have had access to several freelance and employed feature-style writers through the athletic department (my alma mater has a writer on staff who has written multiple books and countless feature articles about one of the teams). Plus she would have had access to the connections of the University of California publishing house. Not to mention the likes of Blythe Lawrence, Dvora Meyers, and a bevy of other writers with experience writing athletic memoirs and other sports-related books.

        Per Coop’s website, he is a freelancer whose focus is/was marriage/relationships and seems to have never written about sports or leadership before, or ever written a book.

        Val knew what she was doing.

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      6. @9:17 that’s a good point and that’s why a three-person podcast works better than a two-person podcast because then two can have a conversation while the third abstains. Jessica often seems content to go on and on about something without Spencer weighing in, but it feels like Spencer does better when he has someone to play off of. Two different styles.

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      7. It amazes me that people think that Jessica is principled or impartial when she’s never made a move that hasn’t benefited her or put her in the best light possible. She’s always aligned herself with the right people at the right time and then discards them in spectacular fashion once they’ve fallen out of favor with the gymnastics community and no longer serve her well.

        When people point out the “in-depth treatment” that Gymcastic seems to give certain topics, please realize they are only brought up because it’s the popular thing to do. There has not been a single news story or topic discussed by Gymcastic where the gymnastics community has not already collectively decided how you should feel about it and what the “correct” reaction is.

        Just look at any BBS comments section. If someone dares say “I’m not going to take this new information at face value right now because I’ve only ever been told the opposite is true for years” then they’re ripped to shreds. It’s so sad how people are terrified to comment about anything because they don’t know if they have the “right” opinion. People, you have a brain and you have opinions. Don’t be afraid to use your brain to come up with an informed decision.

        Take the Miss Val and Alyssa story. It’s perfectly fine to weigh both sides of each story. You can say that Miss Val was hurtful and spiteful and also say that Alyssa medically and physically wasn’t well enough to be on a gymnastics scholarship. Just like it’s unfair and hurtful to say that Miss Val is Jesus Christ and Alyssa was an overweight sack of beam falls, negativity, and drama; you don’t have to go to the other extreme that Miss Val is Satan and Alyssa was really the next Courtney Kupets. It’s actually possible to recognize that the truth is very likely somewhere in between and it will take some time to parse through these different accounts.

        The problem with Gymcastic is that the take the popular extreme, run with it, then discard it when it’s no longer popular. That’s a very dangerous way to present gymnastics information and explains why so many in the gymnastics community respond to things in the way they do.

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      1. Yeah. It’s really too bad they couldn’t have pulled in Tim to pinch hit for this episode. It would have been a good way for Jessica to recuse herself.

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  1. This is only tangentially on-topic, but I forgot to bring it up at the time re: the GymCastic interview with MLT and Val.

    As has been remarked on numerous occasions, MLT is known for being an early adopter of media training for her athletes (dating back to the 90s), and her athletes are known for being generally well-spoken. It was so jarring, then, when at one point early in that interview MLT started a sentence with “Alls I know is…” like she just fell off a damn turnip truck.

    I didn’t — and don’t — believe that MLT thinks that’s anywhere in the universe of proper grammar. It was a huge red flag to me that MLT was being disingenuous, and I believe MLT intentionally wanted to come across as uneducated because it would supposedly “excuse” some of her incompetent and abusive coaching tactics. Her whole M.O. in that interview was “stupid little ol’ me didn’t know any better!”

    For as long as I’ve been following NCAA, Val has always struck me as a more secular and more savvy version of MLT. All the same narcissism, favoritism, and bad behavior, only MLT athletes went to Bible study while UCLA athletes were expected to worship at the Church of Val.

    I hope we hear more from Alyssa — if memory serves, she was interviewed for one of Scott Reid’s long-form pieces about USAG and I hope he reaches out to her again.

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  2. Val always struck me as a master of manipulating the media and her version of “empowerment” was trying to teach her gymnasts to do the same. If you truly want to empower your athletes, let them wear leotards that cover their bras.

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    1. yes, I noticed Mercedez’ support tweet too. It’s so heartbreaking. Kind of gives more perspective on her transfer to another college for a 5th year.
      What’s obvious to me is that Miss Val has heavy favorites among the team whom she promotes to no end. Katelyn was one of them. I’ve been wondering for a while what that does to a team culture when some people clearly are seen as more valuable than others.
      I’m really proud of Alysssa for speaking out, it must’ve been so much harder given Miss Val’s reputation as “the good coach who fixes broken elites”. I hope she knows we support her.

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  3. What we are witnessing in gymnastics is just a peek into the old coaching styles. It was just as bad in other sports. In high school In the late 80s/early 90s, I played basketball. I wasn’t the best on the team, but always good for a consistent 6-8 points. At one game, I had a very bad day. Lots of turn overs and the only points I scored was when I tipped a rebound into the team’s basket. My coach was livid. We lost by 4 points. He openly blamed me after the game, pointing out that I scored more points for the other team than I did ours. I hung back in the locker room for a moment before going out to the bus because I was trying to hide my tears. When I got out there, it was gone. They left me. I had to ride home with some parents who thankfully hadn’t left yet and saw me. My parents laughed it off as a sign the coach saw more potential in me and was drawing it out. He was hard on me all the next week at practice and then didn’t play me at all for the first half of the next game. He put me in after halftime and I scored 14 points, about double my average in half the time, including every free throw I attempted. After the game, he took all the credit for “getting my head back on straight” by making me angry. My performance justified his methods. I was 16. I don’t know why I did well that second half. Maybe I was just lucky or maybe we were playing a weaker team. But this was a common coaching style in the 80s and 90s. The time for reckoning has come. I hope kids have it better today. I was also a gymnast until I was 14. My coach used to force me into splits saying that I had to pop the ligaments in my groin so that I’d flexible for life. Ugh!

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    1. What a horrific article! Talk about kicking Alyssa when she’s down. It’s basically corroborating what she says about the Mean Girls atmosphere.

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  4. honestly i can’t say i’m shocked. growing up i idolized the fierce/final five (duh!), and hearing kyla, madison, katelyn, and simone speak so fondly of her really made me so happy that there’s a nice coach saving them from the abuse they’ve faced during elite. after the maria caire situation and the ou/ucla teal ribbon meet i became confused, especially seeing how the she/the media was centering the narrative about her, when it clearly shouldn’t be. something just felt off, from the heavily pr’ed retirement (megan marsden retired with no fuss!), press conferences (she literally went with kyla and madison?!), and release of her book. reading this further proves that abuse is prevalent even in what we label good coaches. i’m so sorry alyssa, and to whoever else has suffered at ucla. if you ever choose to tell your story, we’re here for you.

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    1. I thought the retirement tour was tacky as hell, but at the same time it probably added a couple tenths to UCLA’s RQS so it was weirdly…kind of in the athletes’ best interest?

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    2. I remember one random thing that seemed weird and out of place with the post-sentencing hearing gymternet values was this one meet where they had a “Val’s Rules” graphic where it talked about how the gymnasts weren’t allowed to do things like wear sweat pants that touch the ground or wear hair ties on their wrist. One I specifically remember was no cleavage and I was like… but what about your team’s leotards? In the grand scheme, it wasn’t huge, but I was just surprised that it didn’t seem to generate any side eye.

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  5. I worry about this trend of gymnasts coming out with whatever they want to say, and the public giving it automatic credence. Is it possible that Texas Dreams is a nightmare? Yes. Is it possible that Miss Val is a cold-hearted PR manipulator? Sure! But I do have reservations that this can easily become a forum for any gymnast who got kicked off a team, didn’t make a lineup, etc. to frame her grievances however she chooses and get instant support for it. I don’t have a Band-Aid solution for this, but we need to read between lines and determine for ourselves what can be substantiated and what cannot, or whether there are two reports or 10 reports, and if other people come to the defense of the accused, we need to give them the benefit of a doubt and not jump on them for “victim shaming” or being “unsupportive.” Everyone deserves his/her day in court.

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    1. Until any of these coaches start facing actual consequences, we will have to agree to disagree. Being called out by disgruntled gymnasts on social media is VERY easily overcome if you were actually being a good coach the entire time. I mean, being a bad and corrupt coach despite being publicly accused is apparently easily overcome too so far. We all piled on Val after the Maria Caire thing was exposed – to my knowledge she didn’t face a single repercussion for that and her bottom line wasn’t affected at all.

      I hear this kind of hand wringing a lot over #metoo stuff and “cancel culture,” and while there should absolutely be due process involved when actual punishment is on the table so the accused can defend themselves and have a real and fair investigation, it is SO rare that any punishment or process is even considered. There’s a brief wave of anger and then people carry right the fuck on, with 100% of their incomes and opportunities intact. I can think of maybe one instance in the past two years in which a prominent person was actually punished for accusations without the accusations being investigated properly, resulting in a disproportionate punishment. I can think of a zillion times that privileged people whined about their victims calling them out publicly.

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      1. Oh and … the people who have actually been punished so far DID have their days in court – those days took YEARS to come around because no one in power took the accusations seriously (USAG) and during that time the guilty ones kept up their abusive behavior.

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      2. You took the words right out of my mouth…. if a coach doesn’t like being called out for crappy, mean , bad coaching behavior, then too bad … you did it, you OWN it .

        They like to own it when they trumpet it as the “only way to produce successful gymnasts” but when the actual behaviors are called into question, not so much …

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    2. This comment reeks of “this rape accusation could RUIN THIS YOUNG MAN’S LIFE” and I am having absolutely none of it. People in power already claim the victims are lying even when they are not, because they can pull it off. A gymnast who wanted to lie wouldn’t get far at all. This isn’t Gone Girl, it’s real life.

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    3. Remember, too, that a lot of these gymnasts tried to get due process at the time of their abuse and their coaches or other authority figures used their power to silence them. Much of what is coming out right now is not, in fact, unsubstantiated or one-sided.

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      1. Walker let him go and brought on two others as assistants. It’s no different than Weber firing Piano and the Griffeth-McCools or Rowland firing Ladanyi.

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      2. That’s like saying a Cabinet member “got fired” because a president from the other party got elected. The expectation is you lose your job in that situation.

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      3. Legally, it’s still termination. Sometimes they’ll allow someone to submit their resignation instead of going through the termination process. If there’s no resignation, however, then it’s termination (same as fired).

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    1. He had the job. Now he doesn’t. The job still exists. He didn’t resign. Randy and his comb-over were bitter about the whole thing. His ass was canned like a tuna.

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  6. Ashly Baker definitely was known in the gym as having a mean mouth if something set her off – which she even unleashed on Dan, but I never heard she was a daily monster. And they had/have? an open viewing area, that was open anytime the gym was open ( and not behind glass). I gather that after having children of her own and becoming a parent of an young athlete ( her daughter did/does? figure skating) she had an epiphany and became a much nicer/more empathetic coach. Perspective can do that.

    Not saying Dan was a perfect example, but he shouldn’t be lumped in with complaints about Ashly. He was known for telling gymnasts to go to the doctor for injuries and asking for written instructions from the physician/PT about what the athlete could and could not do so everyone was clear – at least in the last 10-15 years. Not familiar with the gym before then.

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    1. In the spirit of this post, I suspect that somewhere Natasha Kelley would agree to disagree with you about Dan Baker. It’s nice that he was apparently just standing around while his wife was being awful to the gymnasts, though.

      I’ve always viewed him and MLT as two sides of the same coin. The fact that USAG can’t seem to find new coaches and instead just hires the same problematic people over and over again is just mind boggling.

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      1. I have no doubt there are many that have stories, just noted that in the last 10 years or so there was some change and that came prior to all the must be nice movement. ( Ashly supposed mellowing after children makes me wonder – how many of these evil coaches had kids) Although being less bad than other gyms is not a high standard.

        Getting rid of the Karoyli’s was probably the first big positive step. They lorded over the coaches and threatened to end careers by not inviting any of their gymnasts to camps if they didn’t kowtow. USAG gave them way too much power.

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      2. I’ve heard about Dan Baker being abusive in the past ten years. So I’m curious where this “not in the last ten years” thing comes in.

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  7. Ms Val has always struck me as the type who was great if you were all in with her, but not to be messed with. She tended to tell intimate stories about gymnasts that seemed inappropriate – like you were her BFF, but you weren’t so you knew she was telling those stories to everyone. And they always made her the hero. She was helping them through some bad experience in elite to love gymnastics again, she was telling this one to get a job during the summer because she needed to learn responsibility, she was counseling another that promiscuity didn’t make you popular – at least in the right way. I always thought she was personally controlling. The pulling people from line-ups at the last minute ( for the non-stars- never saw her do that to a “name” even if they had a bad warm-up”) had to play psychological havoc. Did she as bad as some: certainly not; did she improve and change with the times, it seems so; was she the benchmark for positive coaching whom every college coach should strive to emulate – no, to that too.

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  8. completely unrelated but after listening to anna cockrell’s story (usc track and field: national champion in the 400 meter dash, all american, 3.98 gpa- highest of any trojan athlete in history!) i’m starting to wonder about every high achieving athlete. cockrell said that she would run away from all of her mental health issues by being as perfect as possible. knowing that gymnastics is literally based on a judging system of perfection, (mental processes are shaped around that) there’s a very high chance that this is happening, especially in areas where student athletes aren’t getting the help they need or are experiencing abuse, either covert or overt. i did competitive gymnastics as a kid and i know that my need to be precise and perfect definitely comes out in my schoolwork, sometimes in unhealthy ways. it’s worrisome knowing that a lot of programs (such as ucla) aren’t all sunshine and rainbows and that a lot of gymnasts end up having such high gpa’s (obviously everyone should strive to make the most of their education but when it isn’t healthy the lines get blurry).
    this is purely speculation and i’m not calling anyone specific out but i wanted to see if anyone else thinks the same way i do.

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    1. I think you are correct on the perfection part impacting their psyche, but I am don’t think that is necessarily linked to High GPA. In general, I think you have to have some smarts to excel in gymnastics, you have to be able to think on your feet, and have great concentration. Unless they have defined themselves also with high academic goals, expectations of perfection may not cross over – and many programs tend to steer girls into easier majors – both to help with GPA’s, but also to reduce conflict between school schedule/stress/study requirements and gymnastics. I think a lot of striving for perfection to run away from mental health issues is coach related, not sport. If I am perfect, I will be treated better. I am not being treated as well as X, because she is perceived as better. I know some gymnast who got labeled as “brainy” for getting top grades in “hard” classes and then weren’t view as seriously as competitive athletes. Depends on the culture in the program.

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  9. So why couldn’t have Val skipped the part about I won in taking your scholarship away in arbitration. That negates everything else. And Val is so good on optics, her missing that surprises me and telling. When does a school ever not side with the coach? Pretty much coaches back then had carte blanche to keep or not keep anyone they wanted for any reason. So those words pretty much ruined the wish-everyone-could-have-been-coached-by-the-me-of-the-last-10-years. If Val’s personal conversation with Alyssa was just as “nah-nah I may not have been perfect, but I was exonerated by admin”, then I am not surprised Alyssa decided to post her experience.

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    1. I saw it like that as well …basically giving Alyssa the finger in her non-apology. Val comes out of this looking mean and spiteful…. nice legacy, Val .

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    2. Because that’s literally the only legitimate argument Val has, if that. By the time Alyssa’s scholarship was pulled she was very, very injured and not a significant contributor. You could make a case for pulling the scholarship even if you think it was harsh (which I do, at least let her take a medical).

      But the rest of Val’s behavior vis-a-vis Alyssa? Beyond the pale. I think it’s safe to say that if Alyssa were one of Val’s pets, she could be the gymnastics equivalent of a wet fart and keep her scholarship (see Taylor, Allison).

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    3. Val’s husband was also an Assistant Athletic Director at UCLA. She could likely do what she wanted in regard to scholarship and athlete issues without much push back.

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  10. Listen… I would really like you guys to pay more attention to JO because USAG mismanagement starts at the lower levels. Not sure if ya’ll have noticed but the number of girls with stress fractures in their backs starts at L5 and there is a reason for that. This is when the girls start doing walkovers on the beam. Due to fear and lack of proper core training, athletes are hyperextending their backs as they slowly arch back, looking for the beam. Many athletes execute very shallow/archy backbends as they arch back because they are afraid to reach too far behind themselves out of fear of missing their hands. This situation persists through L5-L7. After L8, gymnasts are usually not doing walkovers on the beam quite so much and even if the walkover is in their routine they don’t need to drill it 50x a practice and they probably aren’t fearful of it. USAG is neglecting to keep track of how many girls are getting hurt due to this specific skill at this specific level. If anyone kept track, they would insist that there be a change in training for the skills at this level. According to PTs that I’ve spoken with, much could be done to protect the athletes bodies as they work on this skill. More focused strength work would reduce the stress on the spine. Coaches could maybe find alternate drills so that the athletes wouldn’t have to do so many walkovers on the beam? Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m just a gym mom… but I do know that throughout our region L5 is when you start to see kids walking around in back braces. Does no one track these injuries at an organizational level?

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      1. It is related because the post by Cassidy Hyman talks about her stress-fractured back and how she was still required (and brainwashed into wanting) to train through it.

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      2. I brought it up as it relates to Cassidy Hyman and I believe I’ve seen reports of stress fractured backs in lower levels on other #gymnastalliance posts as well.

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  11. I just read Cassidy’s statement and was so horrified. Do I understand correctly that she wasn’t even at a very high level when she endured all that? Maybe Level 8 or so? Anyway Sorry not sorry but that mom should have pulled her from both gyms much sooner. Getting called in to the gym and seeing your daughter being berated? I WOULD BE LIKE eff you and bye. And apparently this happened several times and she heard her daughter cry every night and she prayed for her to make the series. How about taking action so your daughter doesn’t have lifelong issues. In many cases the parents were kept in the dark but in her case her mom knew. I DON’T UNDERSTAND
    also I am glad she had those 4 coaches who comforted them and they were nice and she loves them. Did those 4 coaches not think that something is up. Not sure they shouldn’t have done more against the monster coaches.

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  12. Well well well. Miss Val is not the savior of mentally injured gymnasts. Master manipulator is her middle name. There are at least 3 other recent gymnasts that support Alyssa-why. Take a look at how she managed to get plum jobs for her inner circle-Chris Waller (he was probably set a long time ago), Jordyn Weiber (intern becomes CEO without any experience/Val is a personal friend of the former coach even though she stole a gymnast from him who is one of gymnasts that supports Alyssa /Val is also a friend of the associate AD in charge of the coaching search because the newly hired AD was engrossed in the search for a men’s bb coach), and now Randy Lane at new program LIU who also tweeted a sorry not sorry apology to Alyssa. Can’t wait for other gymnasts to reveal the true Miss Val.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have Always felt that something was ingeniune and off about Miss Val. Now I don`t know her and my suspicion of her is just by seeing clips and the Bruin banter and similar stuff. For my taste , she loves attention way too much and will totally turncoat on you when it suits her. BUT until now I couldn`t put my finger on what was bothering me, only that she made me cringe whenever I saw an interview with her or hears another story of herself as the hero.
    it was a hunch and now unfortunately I have been vindicated.

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  14. The problem with Alyssa’s doc it reads as if every decision she made was correct and good, in the face of opposition and abuse from Val. She conveniently leaves out the legal arbitration against her. Plus she was on full school competing 1 event sporadically. she told THE truth, but apparently not all of it. That’s a problem. Val’s side supplied information that made the actual situation less cut and dried than A presented. That’s important info to include in the discussion.

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    1. I agree that there are two (or more!) sides to every story, but I’d like to point out two factual aspects of the story that no one is disputing:

      1. Alyssa was kicked off the team (and her scholarship was revoked) in September of her senior year, right before classes started at UCLA and well AFTER the start of classes at most non-California universities (in other words, transferring back to a school on the East Coast wasn’t an option even if Alyssa were interested in doing so).

      2. Alyssa was not given a medical retirement, despite her significant and documented injury history while in college.

      There’s really no justification for that unless Alyssa had a MASSIVE behavioral issue or was a cancer in the locker room, which no one has suggested. Furthermore, said massive behavioral issue would need to have emerged very late in the game to justify Val’s actions — the TIMING of her dismissal was IMO the cruelest part. This is why I’m inclined to support Alyssa over Val — it’s been 17 years and no one has come forward with a story about Alyssa’s behavior that would justify UCLA’s treatment of her. “She wasn’t in shape” doesn’t cut it as an excuse when she was in even worse shape (on crutches at NCAA nationals) the previous spring when a dismissal would have been less injurious.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In today’s climate, I don’t think anyone would come out with stories of Alyssa’s behavior tbh, “victim shaming” etc etc. But from my understanding, there are many of her past teammates from UCLA, who have stories to share about A. But I doubt they will.

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      2. I can’t really think of anything her teammates could say that would justify the timing of Alyssa’s dismissal. Unless she SUDDENLY became a horrible person right before the semester began, why wait until then to pull her scholarship?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Re: Anonymous’s Comment:
        “In today’s climate, I don’t think anyone would come out with stories of Alyssa’s behavior tbh…But from my understanding, there are many of her past teammates from UCLA, who have stories to share about A.”

        But as is noted in an earlier comment, it’s been 17yrs since this took place—and just as Uncle Tim implies (at the start of his post) when he refers to Alyssa’s letter as “the Google Doc we’ve been waiting for our entire lives” as well as her “much discussed removal from the team”, these matters were being discussed/debated within the gymnastic community on-and off-line LONG before the emergence of “today’s climate” (where I would agree that offering a personal account which could be perceived to contradict or undermine that of the individual who has spoken out, is complicated).

        And let’s face it, particularly in the context of a handful of online forums that existed over the past decade and a 1/2 —until very recently, the gym community has shown little hesitation when it’s come to unloading tea concerning current and former gymnasts.

        So I find it hard to believe that any “stories” about Alyssa/her behavior/decisions that related to or would have risen to a level that could have helped explain her eventual dismissal, wouldn’t have ever come out at some point over the years in all of the discussion/debate regarding what happened.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Uncle Tim doesn’t write this blog, it’s Spencer. Uncle Tim had his own blog. Second time both get mixed up around here lol. (Same person both times?)

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      5. Speaking as an old gymnerd here: the tea on the gymternet at the time was that Alyssa was overweight, her body was broken, and she was not capable of contributing. Plus, as Alyssa alluded to in her letter, she did have a (probably unfair) reputation for being outspoken and somewhat difficult, which i think we can chalk up more to warped gymnastics culture and judgmental conclusion-jumping about ADHD than anything else (I swear it was common knowledge that she had it but I can’t find a mainstream news article talking about it. Dave Lease mentioned it in his latest video).

        All of this was known WELL before her senior year of college. Her injury issues started freshman year, I think her weight issues started being noticed her sophomore year, and the “attitude” commentary was virtually unchanged from her elite days. Val had the option of not recruiting Alyssa if she didn’t like her personality, and the other stuff would have been grounds for giving her a medical much earlier. None of it supports Val’s decision to strip her scholarship at the TIME and in the MANNER that she did. Unless it somehow only comes out now that Alyssa committed armed robbery or something in August/September 2003.

        (Not an insider, just remember stuff posted on the internet back in the day)

        Liked by 3 people

  15. Since Jessica O’Beirne thinks everyone should go along 100% with every demand of BLM, then maybe her husband should pay “gymnastics reparations” from all proceeds of that shit book he co-wrote with Miss Val. Give some money to Alyssa and everyone else who suffered under the UCLA program.

    People criticize LSU and other schools for fanaticism but they can’t hold a candle to the church and holy alter of the almighty Miss Val. I’ve never seen such a cultish, fawning, sycophantic, parasitic environment as UCLA gymnastics. I love how people like Jessica and Spencer have swooned and praised and even profited off of the shallow message that Miss Val has peddled to the masses while its been evident for ages how vindictive and sinister this woman really is. I also love how Spencer is trying to craft the narrative that discovering that Miss Val was and is toxic is some sort of impossibility when people have been saying this for 2 decades. It’s people like Jessica and Spencer that have harmed people like Alyssa due to their rapturous praise and endorsement of Miss Val and the UCLA machine. That makes it even richer now that they’re trying to be the be the loudest voices in support of gymnasts. Of course, it’s only profitable and popular now to listen to these voices which is why the narrative is finally changing. However, when your narrative and convictions change as the wind blows, then you really stand for nothing at all.

    Every action Miss Val has taken throughout her time at UCLA has been to benefit herself and no one else. If it served her well to ruin a gymnast in vicious fashion like Alyssa, then that’s what she did. And if it served her well to run around the US on a “look at wonderful me” interview tour with Katelyn Ohashi, then that’s also what she did. That’s been clear from the start and people ignored it because of results, pride, money, book deals, interview tours, and accolades.

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      1. I think it’s just an example of Val doing what Val wants (in this case, taking petty revenge), and successfully spinning it as a logical coaching decision for years because she’s already crafted an image in which she is the “positive,” “supportive” coach.

        Like

    1. Miss Val makes these sycophants like Jessica feel very “inside”. She does by making them feel like she is confiding in them and they’re special when in reality she’ll say anything to anyone. And these sycophants lap it up and become Miss Val cheerleaders.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Does anyone remember how Kristen Maloney almost DIED because the UCLA coaches accused her of faking the pain in her leg, did not believe her when she got the infection in her bone ? I was shocked and horrified when I read that years ago. .

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    1. Here’s a link to an interesting look back to a 2004 Orange County (California) Register newspaper story: “SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: GYMNASTS IN PAIN; Out of balance: An extensive survey of current and former elite U.S. female gymnasts reveals a culture in which pain and suffering are acceptable risks in the quest for success”

      Includes quotes from Alyssa Beckerman, Kristen Maloney, and others including the Karolyis (Bela said: “There are no problems with our sport.” Marta said: “These girls are all healthy. We don’t really need special help or anything like that.”)

      https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/23/out-of-balance-a-look-inside-usa-gymnastics-culture-of-abuse/

      Like

  17. So…sounds like the episode was a real shitshow?

    Spencer, lose the dead weight and start your own podcast. Most of us just tolerate Jessica to listen to your analysis anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Total shitshow. Jessica played the “woe is me, I have a conflict of interest, I can’t win no matter what I do” card. So unprofessional. That episode made it crystal clear Jessica doesn’t care about anything other than herself. She’ll scream “racism!” “abuse!” “fire him!” “fire her!” on the top of her lungs until it’s about someone she likes. At that point, it’s “not all coaches are bad” “we have to hear both sides of the story” etc.

      Remember just a month or 2 ago how she sat in silence with a smug smirk on her face as a disgruntled John Orozco lambasted anyone and everyone with dubious claims and direct attacks. Now look at her defending Miss Val like her life depended on it.

      There has never been any consistency to how Jessica treats people and situations. If you’re on her good side, you can do no wrong and if you’re on her bad side, you’re total irredeemable shit. She’ll go on Twitter acting like the woke citizen of the year and then say “well let’s look at both sides” when it comes to her cash cow Miss Val.

      Spencer’s downfall is going to be attaching himself to Jessica. His actual knowledge and insight is negated when he lowers himself to Jessica’s petty and sad level.

      Like

  18. Any, so-called podcast or gymnastics website that has advertisements on it cannot be trusted to give a fair view or both sides of the story.

    Gymcastic spun the abuse scandal because it was good for business. The lady who runs the gymter.net makes money so she can attend gymnastics meets. Every gymnastics website or podcast, I can name spends a surmountable time contacting gymnasts to appear on their website, podcast or blog. This is like trusting Fox news for a fair political opinion on Republicans or CNN for fair views on the Democrats.

    Jessica stills runs this podcast. Any view on Valerie Kondos Fields or the University of California’s gymnastics program is suspect.

    I only listen to Gymcastic when someone is on the show I like. Jessica has long been muted during her rants. I am really glad to read that so many people dislike listening to her. I thought I was the only one.

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    1. I just want to point out that this is about UCLA’s gymnastics program, *not* the University of California’s, i.e. Cal/Berkeley. (I know that UCLA is University of California, Los Angeles, but especially in the context of sports, when people just say “University of California” they mean Berkeley.) Just want to clarify lest people think there is a scandal in Cal’s gymnastics program too (which I would be genuinely shocked by).

      I don’t disagree with anything else you said though 🙂

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      1. Just a nitpick, but “University of California” refers to the entire UC system (which includes ten campuses total). When people ONLY say “California” or “Cal” – without putting “University” in front of it – then yes, they are referring to Berkeley.

        I know it seems tiny, but as someone who is currently studying and employed at UCLA, there is a big difference! And I didn’t know that Cal=Berkeley until I entered the UC system, so I am with you that I think it’s something a lot of people don’t know, and that the issue in question is not with the University of California as a whole, just UCLA specifically.

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    2. I’m not sure what how the advertisements on either gymcastic or BBS cause an issue with what they are reporting. The issue is with Jessica’s friendships making it impossible for her to discuss things impartially and making everything about her. Talking about advertisements distracts from the real issue and makes it hard for me to take your opinion seriously.

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  19. There were stories back in the day about Alyssa’s attitude at UCLA. Stories of her drinking and behaving entitled. There are stories of Alyssa and her UCLA teammates, treating Tasha Schwikert inhumanly. There are also stories of Kristen Maloney, Alyssa, Jamie Dantzscher, and others behaving inhumanly at the Olympic trials. Elise Ray was also involved in the bullying. Surprisingly, Dominique Dawes spearheaded the behavior. The attitude of that entire quad, including coaches like Kelli Hill, the Rybicki’s, and even Valerie Lukin, is shameful. I am really surprised, Steve Rybecki was allowed anywhere near the front of USAG.

    Everyone blames Bela K, but you will never truly understand how badly the gymnasts and coaches behaved. They somehow received a free pass because Bela was involved. They don’t deserve it. I am surprised Tasha Schwikert hasn’t done an expose on how she was mentally tortured by these gymnasts.

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    1. Laurient how do you know this? Also blaming Bela is certainly justified he is an adult. ¨
      No surprise that the coaches would look away they had their entire career on the line (not justifying looking away but I am not surprised)

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    2. Bela is blamed because he was in charge. When you’re in charge, responsibility ends with you.

      Dealing with difficult employees or members is part of being a boss or a leader. And dealing with difficult athletes is part of a coach’s JOB. If they can’t do it without abusing the athlete, they are not doing their job well.

      I’m sure you could come up with “stories” about literally anyone. I wouldn’t be shocked if some of the stories you’re claiming are true are, in fact, true. But the behavior of various gymnasts or coaching is irrelevant to whether Bela abused his role or abused his gymnasts.

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      1. The behavior of said gymnasts is well documented in the Elite gymnastics community.

        My children were at UCLA during this time and witnessed plenty. Just because they were gymnasts doesn’t mean they were smart enough to hide their behavior. They were young adults, after all. Teenagers, even. Does not matter what you believe. People still know.

        Jeanette Antolin’s antics in College are a thing of legend. She didn’t change completely when reinstated. She just became better at hiding her behavior.

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      2. I mean, cool? No matter how much your children say they saw or heard at UCLA, the behavior of these athletes doesn’t excuse the abusive behavior of coaches towards them. It doesn’t even explain it. End of story. This shouldn’t be hard for you to comprehend.

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    3. Alyssa was off the team in fall 2003. Tasha Schwikert joined in fall 2004. So that part of the story doesn’t ring true at least.

      That said, I’m very sorry to hear that Tasha was treated badly either in the lead up to Sydney or at UCLA or both.

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      1. Maybe Val got sick of Alyssa’s bad attitude and gave her more time than she deserved to fix it. Maybe she finally got fed up with her behavior and had enough. Alyssa admitted she isn’t easy to get along with.

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      2. If Val gave Alyssa extra time to shape up and then felt forced to pull her scholarship at the last possible second, seriously jeopardizing her education, IT’S STILL VAL’S BAD DECISION. Should’ve let her go earlier at a proper time. That’s what a good coach would do.

        Man, the gymnastics people want to do to justify a coach’s behavior.

        Like

  20. Isn’t there an expectation/requirement that recipients of medical retirements serve the team/athletic department in other ways, such as serving as a student coach, team manager, or marketing assistant? I mainly follow a different team but everyone who’s taken a medical in recent years has remained with the team in some fashion.

    My best guess is that Val personally disliked Alyssa and knew that if she gave Alyssa a medical she’d still have to deal with Alyssa in some capacity. So she waited for Alyssa’s various injuries to heal so that a medical could be off the table and Val could just kick Alyssa to the curb altogether. Because if this was just about freeing up a scholarship, Val could have gotten rid of Alyssa much earlier. But maybe a medical wasn’t enough for Val, if a medical meant still having to see Alyssa almost every day.

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    1. I don’t think it’s required. It’s often desired by the athlete as a way to stay involved with the team but I can think of some that haven’t.

      I can think of one gymnast who medically retired who was rumored to have done so because the coach wanted to get rid of her for problematic behavior. So it is there as an easy way out.

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  21. Jessica needs to go. I don’t accept her apology because her behaviour is a pattern and her presence in the gymnastics community makes her part of the problem with the culture of gymnastics.

    Just because she has done good things for the sport does not absolve her from the negative things she has done, things such as telling people to kill themselves on Tumblr in her early days to the Steve Penny shirt incident to the situation with Miss Val. Not to mention countless other incidents, such as falsely accusing the moderators of /r/gymnastics of removing her posts on Reddit and making light of Shang Chunsong’s malnourishment.

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    1. So, I didn’t listen to the episode and maybe she gets into it there. But where I think this apology falls short is that it does not acknowledge her mistake of entering into a FINANCIAL relationship with Val long AFTER she was preaching about conflicts of interest within the sport. Nor does she promise not to repeat that mistake in the future.

      She also doesn’t apologize for the fact that her version of addressing a conflict of interest was to only praise Val, and then to clam up when there was a negative story. That’s not how it works.

      It also doesn’t reflect any self-awareness about the fact that maybe Val (and others?) have pursued her friendship for less than genuine reasons, and that others could attempt to do so in the future.

      I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: The Washington Post manages to report on Amazon in an even-handed fashion.

      Like

    2. Wasn’t the reddit meltdown Lauren Hopkins not Jessica, or am I missing something? I know there was a near-identical incident with Lauren recently.

      Like

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