Not since the athlete formerly known as “Bruce” Jenner quit manhood has an American quitter been more celebrated than elite gymnast Simone Biles. Perhaps it is something of an indictment of this year’s Global Pandemic Olympics that the most exciting event thus far has been the women’s 800-meter dash for the quitting line.
Certainly, mental health is vitally important, and people struggling with mental issues should get help.
But it seems a little premature to declare someone a “hero” simply because she felt forced to quit something over mental problems — or any other kind of problem. It is like crowning a guy a “hero” because he had to quit work to go to the hospital to have his prostate removed.
That’s not to say the guy isn’t a true hero once he beats cancer and returns to work. He could even be a hero if he ultimately succumbs to the disease — provided he battled valiantly and bravely.
But you wouldn’t call someone a “hero” just because the person got struck by lightning. Or fell into a volcano pit. Or got hit by a car. Or bitten by a rabid dog.
There would be no value to life if all that mattered was just showing up. Sure, just showing up is the most important thing we all do every single day. But there is nothing extraordinary about just showing up.
Yet, here we are. Simone Biles got the “twisties” — which sound absolutely horrifying — and had to bow out of competing with her team of Americans in Tokyo. And in that instant, she became a heroic icon for many.
This is our new world, where everyone gets a trophy no matter how they perform. A world where everything can be anything, all depending on how you feel. How you identify.
Just because I “identify” as a brilliant, petite gymnast does not make me one — though, to be clear, my children would love to see me don a leotard and try my very best.
Whether we like it or not, there is still reality. And part of reality is something called the laws of physics. If most of us attempted anything Miss Biles makes look so easy, we would be carted off on a stretch — if we were lucky. There’s a better chance than not it would kill us.
It is sad, maybe, but those are just the laws of physics.
Ironically, the person most ill-served by this whole celebratory orgy of failure is Simone Biles herself.
When effort rather than accomplishment — failure rather than achievement — is celebrated, it is the very best among us who are punished the most. When everybody gets gold for just showing up, gold loses all value.
During her extraordinary career, Miss Biles has demonstrated that she is among the very best who ever dusted her hands in chalk. She has earned plenty of gold hardware to show for it.
Perhaps we should look to the formerly “Mr.” Jenner to mansplain all this quitting for us. After all, he waited until his Olympic career was long over before he started quitting.
• Charles Hurt is the opinion editor at the Washington Times.
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