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Carl Nassib is the NFL’s first active gay player.

Another pride month win for representation!

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Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came out of the closet earlier today and his statement almost brought me to tears.

Nothing he said was particularly emotional, but it just took me back to junior high school, having rocks thrown at me, getting into fights on the bus, hearing faggot every day, and seeing no way past the torture of being bullied by jocks who thought it was fun to beat up on the gay kid.

It was just cool to beat up on the gay kid. Whether you were actually homophobic or not didn’t matter — you bullied the gay kid because other guys bullied the gay kid and that’s just how it was. It’s not as cool as it once was. Homophobia still exists, but outright support also exists in a way I didn’t experience, and sometimes that counterbalance is all you need for a homophobe to seethe quietly since he doesn’t have enough peers to feed into the bullying.

I’m trying to picture how I would have felt in junior high if an NFL player came out and his commissioner, coach, and teammates were all behind him. I probably would’ve been bullied anyway, to some extent at least, but I definitely would’ve believed it actually does get better, because I didn’t at the time. Saying “it gets better” doesn’t mean anything to a kid who wants to die because he’s the only gay person he knows, he dreads facing his peers because he doesn’t know if someone will light his homework on fire or hit him with a flagpole, and the only gay people on TV are fictional comic relief. Seeing a gay man in the center of a hypermasculine, heterosexual, aggressive environment means much more. It means not everyone is out to get you and you won’t be tortured forever, because if he can find support in the NFL, you can find support somewhere too.

 

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Simone Biles and the Twisties.

If Simone Biles could compete, she absolutely would. She’s SIMONE BILES okay?

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Simone Biles shouldn’t have to explain herself, but the Internet Age means there are a whole lot of people who get winded walking to the car giving big opinions on why she didn’t compete. When she pulled out of the Team competition, I hoped it was a very temporary setback and she would compete for the All Around and Individual medals. I wanted her to be the first woman to successfully defend her All Around title since 1968. When she didn’t compete again, I wasn’t really sure why, but I also didn’t really need the details.

Simone Biles is inarguably the most impressive athlete in the history of women’s gymnastics. She won a World Championship title with a kidney stone. She’s competed with fractures and strains over and over. She’s fallen completely off of an apparatus (sometimes more than one apparatus!) and still pushed forward to ultimately win the competition. Given her talent, work ethic, and determination, if Simone Biles says she cannot compete, then that’s the final word. If there was a way for her to push through, she would.

I was under the (misguided) impression that the pressure of the competition coupled with the blatantly discriminatory undervaluing of her skills alongside her status as the last of Nassar’s victims still in elite competition finally got to her. She was carrying the weight of the sport on her shoulders and it got to her at the worst moment. That was fine with me because she doesn’t owe me or anyone else anything. Watching her documentary on Facebook gave me fresh insight into who she is as a person, and I felt that if she reached her mental limit at the Olympics, then so be it.

Good job, Simone. You did your best and it must be devastating for you to have finally buckled a little  at the most inopportune moment.

But she didn’t buckle at all. She didn’t collapse under the moment. I’m sure she would be devastated if she couldn’t close out her career the way she wanted to because her nerves got to her, but the truth must be even more devastating: Simone Biles got The Twisties. I’ll let this thread from a former gymnast/diver explain.

A quick aside about that penultimate tweet: comparisons to Kerri Strug competing on a broken leg are not making the point you hope they are. Kerri Strug 1) didn’t even need to vault, because if the Karyolis could do math, they would’ve known the US had already won gold and 2) it ended her gymnastics career. Keri may have retired after Atlanta anyway, but the choice was no longer up to her. Is a gold medal really worth that kind of sacrifice? These young women don’t get any prize money. No trust funds, no scholarships, no pensions. They compete for a week and are largely relegated to the dustbin of history unless they find a way to become a meme or America’s Sweetheart for a few endorsements.

Athletes do not owe the US a medal. Bodies don’t get pushed to the breaking point so people on the couch can feel a burst of patriotism for thirty seconds. Athletes compete for themselves, not for you. You aren’t doing anything. It’s not your medal.

Simone chose not to compete because Simone could not compete safely. Kerri Strug was not given that choice. She told her coaches that she couldn’t feel her leg and they pushed her to vault anyway. Simone told her coaches that she couldn’t feel herself in the air and they respected her as an athlete and as a person who knows her own body.

Back to the twisties…

There hasn’t been enough explanation, in the coverage I’ve seen anyway, of what Simone is actually experiencing, so I wanted to pull that thread out for y’all. If you’ve been an athlete in any sport, you may already have a name to put to it (the yips in baseball, the yanks in golf). If you’re a musician, you may have experienced a similar phenomenon where your body just randomly forgets how to play a piece, and you have to re-train or re-practice to help your body remember what it’s supposed to do. The neurons just aren’t firing the way they’re supposed to, and after the Team and All Around competitions, Simone still can’t feel herself in the air.

If Simone landed that way in competition, she could die. I’m not sure people recognize how dangerous gymnastics is because the athletes make it look so effortless, but death is an actual risk anytime they compete. If your kinesthesia is off in golf, you might hit the ball too hard. If your kinesthesia is off in baseball, you might throw the ball too short. In both cases, the ball feels the effect. If your kinesthesia is off in gymnastics, you might land on your head and break your neck.

I’m proud of Simone Biles. I don’t know that I would have the mental fortitude or depth of spirit to work for something for five years, have my body fail in the 11th hour, and face the public with grace and positivity. She’s smiling, she’s cheering, she’s in Tokyo with her chin up as though she just won a gang of gold medals.

Oh wait — she already has.

 

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Simone Biles for Glamour Magazine

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Thanks to a global pandemic, the greatest gymnast in history was forced to spend part of the last year finding some equilibrium in a life that had previously been all about the work. “I lived, I traveled, I did things I couldn’t do because of gymnastics,” she says. Now, as she prepares for the 2021 Olympics—maybe her last (!!!)—the 24-year-old is a approaching her sport with a new sense of joy.

(cont.)

 

Glamour magazine said y’all not finna drag them for not lighting a Black model appropriately!

 

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HuffPo: Shelby Houlihan Blames Positive Steroid Test On Pork Burrito

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Shelby Houlihan, the American record holder in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, posted on social media that she’s been banned for four years following a positive test for what she concluded was a tainted pork burrito.

(cont.)

I was ready to write this story off as another athlete caught doping and trying to lie about it, but maybe she’s telling the truth. I found a study showing the link between nandrolone and eating pork as early as 2002.

Should one positive test (which could be a false-positive!) for a banned substance get you kicked out of your career for four years or should there be a follow up? She had her hair tested to prove there had been nothing in her system over time and submitted to a polygraph, and neither of those sound like the actions of someone trying to pull one over on the competition.

 

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