A random girl's random gymnastics ramblings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

That Time NBC Made Me Hate the Olympic Trials, and Everyone Ever.


After the mind-numbingly horrible, awful, terrible, miserable, dreadful, appalling, miserable, horrendous, lousy, gruesome, and downright shameful Olympic Trials as broadcast by NBC, I knew right away that I had to write something.  OH, the rage that bubbled inside of me.  I ranted and raved to whoever would listen, (which was exactly one person, sorry Mr. Tampson,) and knew that I wanted, nay, NEEDED to write something.  

I plunked my angry ass down and opened up my docs.  I was so upset, I didn’t even know what to write.  So I angrily stared.  I ruthlessly mulled.  I took a break for a snack, and then came back to stalk social media.  

I took screencap after screencap of disgusting, hateful commentary from #fouryears and gymternet members alike.  “THAT’LL SHOW THEM!!!” I screamed silently as I irrationally pounded twelve Cherry Diet Cokes.  I gathered and edited photos, while simultaneously hand-writing down commentary, verbatim, gifted to us by the brilliant trio.  Really inspirational stuff.  

Hours turned into days, leaving a largely blank screen to stare me in the face, taunting me as if I were the reigning Olympic AA champion, and NBC really needed to use me as a punchline to plump up their sagging, impotent ratings.  

My seeming inability to form words certainly didn’t stem from a lack of material, what with privileged white girls passing around photoshopped USAG team pictures, using clever little monkey emojis.  WHAT COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE TO RANT ABOUT?

So after days and days and days of mulling over my perfect, pointed, eye-opening think piece, I thought…


There are rivers and lakes and oceans of pure, unadulterated SHIT flying around the internet right now, and for me to pull more attention to that, to focus on the seemingly endless parade of hate, well, that seems NBC-level stupid.  

There is enough stupid flopping around the gymternet right now.  

Perhaps, what I’d rather do, is focus on wonderful, delightful, and inspiring events of the past weekend.  


I will naturally start with the apparent source of the gymternet shitstorm, and the source of glorious shiny unicorn buttery popcorn in my heart-

Gabrielle Q. Douglas.  


The Q. stands for Qualified to her second Olympic team.  

There is so much talk of making history.  She made history once- can she do it again??  

Here’s the thing: she already has.  She made history when she returned to national AA competition at P&G/Hersheys/Mrs Butterworths Championships.  She made history when she was named to her second World team.  She made history when she won a World silver medal, to go with her second World gold.  She made history when she showed up for the 2016 selection season faced with unprecedented expectation, criticism and pressure.  

And yes, she made history when she became the first American Olympic AA champion to return to the Games.  

So does she need to defend her Olympic title to make history?  No.  Chances are she won’t, and that is so, so OK.  She is a history-maker, and no amount of petty, Al Trautwig-level bullshit will ever, ever take that away from her.

Look at how insanely happy they all are.  Well, maybe not so much Skinner.  But the other girls- thrilled beyond belief.  They worked their entire lives, and now they get to celebrate!  Well, not Gabby.  Gabby doesn’t get to celebrate the monumental feat of making her second Olympic team because she’s too busy being fed fistfuls of crap, being told she didn’t earn her place, doesn’t deserve it, doesn’t want it enough, etc and so forth.  

Nothing on God’s green Earth bothers me more than the phrase “So and so deserves it!” as it pertains to gymnastics.  Let’s get real: anyone who dedicates such a wild amount of time and effort into the sport we love DESERVES it.  If life was fair, then every girl who ever went elite ever would get her chance to compete for the USA at the Olympics.  They all deserve it .  But we continue to assert that we, the public, get to decide who deserves to be rewarded for their work and who does not.  

So I ask this: what exactly is the criteria that decides who deserves a coveted spot on the Olympic team?  Is it who has the most favorable leotards?  Whose eye makeup is the most “on pointe,” as the children say?  Do we choose those who stick diligently to the USAG media training script?  Or those who throw out off-the-cuff, unscripted remarks?  Do we measure based on who suffered through the most injuries?  Or by who had the least amount of drama?  Am I correct in assuming that social media content is one of the most important, if not THE most important selection criteria?  

Being that these questions remain largely unanswered, at least to me, I have to wonder how people arrived at the conclusion that Dougie simply doesn’t deserve her spot.  It’s not like she layout flyawayed her spot onto the team.  She trained as many months, days, and hours as everyone else.  She sacrificed as much as everyone else.  Her talent, and results, are certainly up there with everyone else.  So what am I missing?  


Oh, yes, that’s right.  I’m missing the fact that this world is stuffed full of life-ruining, soul-sucking, traffic nose-pickers who make it their mission in life to be the literal worst.  
Being that these were the Olympic Trials, and as such, everyone was on the same side, and competing for the same team, I found it hard to understand why NBC, and therefore everyone else, needed to have a villain for this particular meet.  Aly was quoted as saying that Trials is arguably her favorite meet, because it is Trials and everyone is rooting for you, and celebrating your accomplishments.  It would be a true shame if someone didn’t get to experience it as such…

But let’s focus on someone who did get to have the meet of her dreams.  By all accounts, San Jose converted itself from the armpit of California into Laurie Hernandezville.  And I, for one, completely support this transformation.  

Were her scores anywhere near the vicinity of reality?  Nah.  But such is the nature of Olympic Trials, even as far back as 1996, when scores were kept *just so* so as to maintain Moceanu and Miller’s supposedly precarious positions on the team.  Spoiler: they were in no way precarious.  Not then, not now, not ever.  

History has shown us that when given even a slight chance to control the outcome of a team deciding competition, USA Gymnastics will pounce at the opportunity and shake the life from it like a three year old with a new balloon from Red Robin.  Burned by the forced “Place Top Two, It’s the Olympics/Worlds for You!” rule in both 2003/2004, Martha and Co. learned right quick that the only way to prevent accidental Meet-Of-Our-Lives-Itis was to hold certain scores down, and bolster the ever-loving-crap out of the others.  

Clearly, what with Simone being Simone, there was no fear of some rando who wasn’t Simone winning that precious promised spot.  But what about those other spots?  Now, this may be news to some, but did you know that the top 5 spots at Trials are not automatically on the Olympic team?  I know!  THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION.  And by brand new, I mean the way things have been since 2000.  But how can we still make sure that the girls we want on the team leave the meet with scores that will place them favorably in both the hearts of America, and the hearts of the Olympic judges?  Also maybe placing them fearfully in the hearts of competitors?  

Let’s give them asinine scores.  

Does it matter?  Nah.  When your grand puba has to go on record saying “We have our own judges doing our own scores,” then mayyyyyyybe we don’t have to take the posted scores all too seriously.  

But whatever.  The awesome part was when the entire thing comes down to the final routine of the night, and it’s Laurie Hernandez on beam.  Now, for drama’s sake, let’s pretend she wasn’t already on the team in May.  Let’s pretend that she needed to nail this one beam routine in order to achieve her dream, and make the Olympic Team.  It was her Amy Chow moment, if you will.  The arena is silent.  She mounts.  She pounces and flits her way through a routine one can only consider divine.  She dismounts to thunderous applause.  These are the kinds of routines that motivates 8 year old gymnasts for generations to come.  


I do feel the need to go on record saying I kind of despise both the nicknames “Baby Shakira” and “The Human Emoji.”  Like… what even?  I don’t even know where Shakira comes from, is it a hips thing?  And oh, a teen has emotions amongst the robots, GET OVER IT.  She is worthy of much more dignified monikors.  This will be the Flying Squirrel of our time.  

I want to talk about Maggie.  I don’t know what to say about Maggie.  I love Maggie.  I am gutted for Maggie, and yet, I understand.  Not the alternate snub, I don’t understand that at all.  But what a way to go out.  And just such a classy, classy person and gymnast.  One can only hope that every gymnast who gets the short end of the stick, or ever ends up just short, can do so with the level of class of one MAagagaagagaguegdhj Nichols.  


I want to talk about Amelia Motherfudging Hundley.  Now, I wouldn’t know for certain, because NBC is the embodiment of a dog shitting against a wall, but I’m told Meels had basically the best meet of all time.  Word on the street is that MLT had been keeping her distance from the underdog, which can only lend itself to Amelia’s brilliant showing.  


There were other moments, sentiments even, that I take for granted.  Simone, among historic expectations, solidifying her spot.  I mean, we all knew she would.  Of course she would.  There was literally no way in Nastia's Pink Polo hell that she wasn’t going.  But despite all that, she still had to go out and do the thing, just like every other girl out there.  


I also very much tend to take Aly’s Banana RePatterson performances for granted.  It’s so expected, that if she doesn’t perform to her abilities, at least in the team portions of major meets, it comes as a MASSIVE shock.  We trust Aly Raisman to go out and nail her shit because that’s her thing and that’s the thing she does.  And on the cusp of making her second Olympic team, she did it.  Again.  

So, in spite of NBC’s valiant attempts to Donald Trump the meet, and divide the gymternet, each and every one of the competitors proved that our particular gymnastics world is not all doom and gloom.  Our media, and ourselves at times, can be complete shitbags, but the athletes continue to be beacons of pride, and of the Olympic spirit, that this world sorely needs.  


Most of these stellar pieces of photographic glory are masterfully taken by Christy Ann Linder.  She is the Simone Biles of gymnastics photography.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Douglas Family Gold 1.1


The year was 2010.  A young-ish blogger by the name of Spanny F. Tampson was in Chicago, attending the first of like seventy Secret/Pantene/Covergirl/Feminine Odor Classics to be held in the UIC Pavillion.  Performing on the uneven bars, or the “bars,” was none but a child, one Gabrielle Douglas.  

A little wisp of a thing, she gracefully mounted the “unevens,” and created a brand new move, “The Douglas.”


Blogess Tampson calmly turned to her associates, and stated “Yes, she does have panache.  I enjoyed the routine thusly.”  But inside she was screaming “YES SHE’S THE ONE THAT I WANT, THAT ONE RIGHT THERE!”  

Six years, three national championships, two American Cups, two world teams, and an Olympic All-Around title later, the two were reunited.  The blogess in her living room, and the champion on the television, starring in her first of what will probably be many shows, Douglas Family Gold.

We open with a flashback to the London all-around final, which, #SPOILER, Gabby wins.  We see shots of her winning floor routine.  Now, if you’re anything like myself, you’ve watched all sorts of coverage of this meet, oh, maybe a jillion times.  In doing so, you probably have the commentary memorized.  I know I do.  So hearing random Al Trautwig-isms haphazardly plastered over random clips is akin to nails on a chalkboard.  It makes me want to die.  

But, just in case you haven’t been obsessed with Gabby for the past six years, a tidy little refresher is offered.  She won, got super famous, and is back.  Pretty simple.  OR IS IT?  A preview of the upcoming season teases us so, with hooks like WILL GABBY DOUGLAS MAKE IT TO WORLDS??”  


It’s a real mystery.  We get a montage of sorts showing Douglas making errors here and there, and in attempting to really stuff in that tearful drama, we’re shown this particular clip.  


Yes, let’s take the moment where Supportive Mama and Proud Brother watch their star achieve her dreams, and stick in the Boo-Hoo category.  Anyone with eyeballs and and an obsession with parents-crying-in-the-stands reaction shots can tell the difference.  I mean please.  

Which leads us to our awkward and yet adorable title sequence, showing the Douglai trying to work out how to sit on a couch, while Gabby comes catapulting into the middle of everyone.  


Miss Carolyn is not here for this.  Following a couple of Los Angeles Stock Photo shots, the very same one we’ve seen in literally every reality show ever, we find ourselves inside the GK offices.  I’m fairly certain the GK offices are not in LA, and may be bunkered on the East Coast somewhere, but seeing as how there’s probably no East Coast Stock Photos, we are led to believe this glamorous meeting is being held in the glamorous City of Angels.  Or something.  

Gabby is modeling a series of increasingly more perfect leotards, most of which feature a brand spanking new signature.  


As my toddler would scream out with the force of a thousand suns, “IT’S NEW!!!!”  He really, really likes new things.  Gone are the Gabrielle signatures of yesteryear.  My guess is that GK figured “Well, since the trio gave her the nickname Gabby and then literally the entire planet started calling her Gabby, perhaps we should try to capitalize on the Gabby name.”  Or whatever.  


She could sign her name with a bunch of Xs or a thumbstamp, so long as they were on leotards as wonderful as these.  Naturally, they’ll never see the light of day, since only tacky, neon, sparkle-vomit leotards are allowed on the competition floor.  

A GK employee, heretofore referred to as Joan Cusack-


-whispers to Gabby, I’m assuming to persuade her to ask her mother if she can wear a GK jacket for this next setup.  


That would be a no.  

I mean, c’mon, Nike shirt with a GK jacket?!  Get real.  IT’S LIKE YOU WANT TO GET SUED.

Joan Cusack quickly placates Natalie “Momager” Hawkins by showing her this brand new, never before seen, super original, out of this world space leo.  Are you just dying to know what this magical leotards looks like/does?  I know I was.


Cutouts… the brand new, never before seen, super original, out of this world space leo is a leo with cutouts.  


Same, D.  Same.  

We cut to Mama Nat sharing her family’s history, focusing the financial aspect of their backstory.  Nothing groundbreaking (for the casual diehard stan of six years), but it doesn’t matter because we are treated to a smattering of totally adorable and perfect pictures of the Douglai as bitty children.  


Couple of thoughts:

  • Baby Fever
  • I want Arielle’s sweatshirt/sweater/whatever that is.
  • How in God’s name did Natalie manage to shop while pushing TWO carts with FOUR children???  I’m having fits of anxiety just looking at this picture.  

Because those adorable children worked and sacrificed to help their baby sister to achieve her/their goals, they have now staked a claim to Gabby’s business, the Business of Being Gabby.  Gabby the Brand.  

It’s easy to immediately jump up and punch your HD television screen, because what kind of a monster forces the youngest, poor fragile baby child to support the ENTIRE FAMILY?  There’s absolutely no way any of them care one iota for Gabrielle, all they want are her sweet, sweet Nike dollars.  If Gabby hadn’t have won in London, they would have thrown her out in the street, but only after changing her name to Cinderella Douglas.  

Or something.  

Of course, there are frustrations and pressures that lay in playing such a central part to your family’s happiness.  Throughout this season, I hope we see more of Gabby the Person, vs Gabby the Brand.  Even though I (six year stalker) know, I want the rest of the viewing audience to see how much this family loves their youngest member, and how they support her without condition.

Back to the West Coast is the Best Coast, the Douglai are still at GK, modeling leos. Gabby wears one that should 100% without a doubt 10/10 be the team leo for Rio, Under Armor can go sit on a tack.  


Doug G. Doug (the name Doug E. Doug is taken.  By a real person.  An actor in the hit 90s film Blank Check.  I know because I had the movie poster up in my bedroom.)  hauls ass back to Ohio, and is keeping busy at Buckeye.  

We are presented with Miss Kittia, who serves us all some technical realness.  I’m high with surprise and delight.  But then we immediately juxtapose to a quick Gabby interview, and we’re immediately brought back down with this NATIONAL TEAM talk.  

Um, Spanny?  Are you literally high?  Surely you meant Olympic team, and not NATIONAL TEAM, right?  RIGHT???

Newp.  We are introduced to the first of many, many, MANY references to the true quandary of DOES GABRIELLE Q. DOUGLAS MAKE THE NATIONAL TEAM?  Spoiler: she does.  I know this because I have been alive for the past 18+ months.  Maybe even longer.  

Putting that aside (I’m sure they won’t mention it again…) we are treated to some quality Dougie training footage.  And she’s not made up or anything.  Just Gabby and her wonderful natural beauty, doing gymnastics.  And I am happy.  

Gabby’s not, because she needs to revisit beam.  “Historically, it’s my weakest event,” is the line she recites, which she does quite well.  I see more scripted television in her future.  I’m thinking a light comedy series?  With a wacky roommate and a mean old landlord.  Maybe on ABC.  Or something.  


When they use this old-timey bleach filter, I fully expect the Little Rascals to come out, followed by Petey.  But without it, how else are we to know that this event happened in the dark ages, all of five years ago?  

No time to mull it over, because we’re already back in LA.  More stock photos of the freeways, palm trees, and bitches shopping.  Back in the GK offices, now in California I guess, are Natalie and the girls, minus Gabby, of course.  Natalie fills us in on how Gabby’s leotard line is the perfect opportunity for her sisters to get into the “biz.”  It is here where we learn that Joyelle Douglas has the most amazing and wonderful RBF of all time.  She is about to murder Joan Cusack when she reasons that because Joy’s so good at art, that she’ll DEF be good at designing leotards.  I mean totes the same thing, right?  She is not here for this.  Arielle does a better job at feigning interest in the gig.  During her monologue, we are gifted with more adorable family photos.  


I can’t.  Joan Cusack is super excited for the leotard reveal, but she’s even MORE excited to maybe skype in Gabby for it?  Natalie rolls her eyes, and is like “Yeah, sure, I guess.  She’s PROBABLY at training, seeing as how she’s TRAINING for the Olympics and all.  Am I not offering you enough Douglai??”  

Dougie does answer, she picks out the one she likes, badabing badaboom.  Back to training.  Gabby shares that she’s a bit worried for Championships, because the other girls have spent the past three years learning new skills (cue Skinner doing a back tuck?) and working out viciously.  


My eyes are immediately drawn to the 6-7 girls in this picture who are no longer in the running for Rio.  Sadsies.  

Miss Kittia lets us, well and Gabby, know that for Championships, she is to focus on clean and consistent execution.  Naturally, Dougie wants to know if she can perform/throw the Amanar.  




This is the exact face and line I use with my toddler.  Gabby explains that she has a little competition in the vault department, and that competition goes by the name Simone Biles.  Maybe you’ve heard of her.  

Miss Kittia responds that while she can totally see Gabby nailing the Amanar, she can also see her dying on it.  So maybe it’s best to play it smart.  For now.  If you’ll reach back into semi-recent history, you’ll remember that Doug has a habit of not doing great Amanars until immediately prior to the Games, at which point they’re spectacular and wonderful.  

OH.  Another NATIONAL TEAM mention.  That’s the true goal for these championships, is to make the NATIONAL TEAM.  Because without making the NATIONAL TEAM, there’s no shot in hell of making Worlds.  #Brenna.  


Back in Smell-A, the remaining Douglai gear up to facetime with their youngest member.  In doing so, we get to see some of that delightful, un-fltered, no “four-for-four” crap Gabrielle that we know is there, just begging to get out from underneath Andrea Joyce’s sweaty undergirth.  


Because of course the queen has her own crown.  Nothing has made more sense to me.  Learn more about the close relationship between Gabby and her older brother, Jonathan.  


I love him because he reminds me so much of my own brother.  Also, of a young Carlton Banks.  I vaguely recall some hype about the both of them aiming for Rio?  I’m going to go ahead and assume that is no longer the case, but you know what, there is absolutely no shame in that.  One can be a very very very very very very very very very very very very very good athlete, and still not compete in the Olympics.  The Games are a chapter, not the whole book.  


Time travel to immediately prior to Championships.  John is not about to be late for their flight, so he hollers at the ladies to HTFU.  


Natalie appears from her perch atop of the most amazing staircase ever, and reminds her dear son that if speaks like that to her again, she will bury him in the backyard.  


Already in Indy, Gabrielle Q. Douglas is being interviewed by possibly a fake reporter, giving totally-not-media-trained answers.  


Saints alive, I feel for these girls.  They can never win.  Say too much?  Conceited, disgusting pig.  Don’t say enough?  Must be a stupid, mute, disgusting pig.  Smiling too much?  What a brainless, disgusting pig.  Not smiling enough?  EAT A SANDWICH, YOU DISGUSTING PIG.  But what are we, if not a gang of people who like to judge the merit and worth of others based solely off of 10 second snippets of stunted interviews?  WHAT ARE WE?  

I digress.  Communicating through monologue, Gabby informs us that podium training days are basically the most important part of the meet.  Everyone’s there, coaches, media, judges, MARTHA.


CAMEO.  For those peons not in the know, Martha is the boss of this Planet Earth, and choses, of all things, the NATIONAL TEAM.  It’s like, a super serious thing, you guys.  


Then Gabby reitterates what we all know to be true, and that is that “A bad practice at the (Animal Abuse Championships) could affect my chance at making the Rio Olympic Games.”


Sounds about right.  Oh and throughout all of this, we see a montage of training clips, and various shots of Gabby standing around the podium looking like a badass.  It’s the best.  

Back at the hotel, Doug walks in the door, only to be immediately accosted by every member of family.  And by “accosted” I mean asked about how her day went.  And by “every member of her family,” I mean only Natalie.  


Natalie asks her the normal questions, how was training, how did it go, was Martha there?


Gabby explains, with that her trademarked Dougie sass that you KNOW is there but STUPID USAG WILL JUST NEVER LET IT OUTTTTTT, that no one (except for everyone) wants to hear that she did two doubles on vault, warmed up bars, did three routines, etc and so forth.  I mean, what kind of LOSER would want to know, and read all about those things?  


Fast forward to the one and only day of Championships.  #FACTS  The Douglai are prepping in their hotel room, while alluding to some mystery issue that I honestly still don’t understand.  Natalie’s all “Phew, good thing you’re not super upset, like that time you were upset!” So Dougie’s like “OK, yeah, I guess I was a little upset, that time I was upset.”  I’m still confused.  

Natalie parlays this into a speech about how wonderful and amazing Gabrielle is, and that she doesn’t owe shit to anybody.  This scene gets me in the feels, because the pressure Gabby feels is palpable, and she looks like she would rather eat a snack pack of shit than listen to this speech one.more.time.  But Natalie knows that every word is true, and that it’s worth saying a million times if it means Gabby absorbs it.  I’ve been there both as a child and as a mother.  I haven’t been there as the bread-winning Olympic champion.  I have not been there yet.  


FINALLY, it’s time for the meet.  We see shots of the city, the arena, eager children/obsessive adults, I’m totally vibing and then BLAMMO.  Al Trautwig.  I’m super happy about it.  


Gabster feels the same way.  

We start with beam.  

Oh, right right right.  I mean


The blur tells me that AT&T is a Russia-stan and HATES AMERICA.  That is the only thing it could mean.  

Timmy Q.D is a unicorn to Nastia’s white piece of paper, in their commentary of Gabby’s beam.  TQD fairly assesses that Douglas has had her fair share of balance checks in this routine, while Nastia doesn’t even try to disguise her glee while taking a literal crap down Gabby’s back.  They show the switch ring, oh, eleventy times, which apparently the Douglai are also watching on repeat, because they are convulsing.  


While Nastia opens her mouth, bats fly out and, and those bats inform us that such a FILTHY SLOP ROUTINE could leave Gabby’s spot on the World’s Team in jeopardy.

World’s Team, Nastia.  I’m pretty sure you meant the NATIONAL TEAM.  You’re welcome.  

Gabby competes to some random track off of America’s Great, Volume 2, and everyone’s thrilled.  Except for Nastia, probably.  Hooray!  End of meet.  But now, the Douglai have to wait and wait and WAIT to see whether or not Gabby has made the elusive Olympic Worlds NATIONAL TEAM.  



How did her family even survive such a wait?  I mean, it must have taken minutes and minutes for Martha to come out, and present each girl with a rose, explaining that she is still in the running to become America’s Next NATIONAL TEAM member.  And then for the fake announcer guy doing his fake announcement of the NATIONAL TEAM, well, one can understand how harrowing it could be for the remaining Douglai.


While the crowd leaves, Gabby, Miss Kittia, and Sexual Christian stroll through the arena’s underbelly, discussing their upcoming plot to kill off a certain NATIONAL TEAM member.  Or something.  


That was a tasty little treat, now wasn’t it?  For more fabulous/inane insight, check out Gymcastic’s featured podcast series, Douglas Family Gold: The Official Unofficial Podcast.

Until then, my Nastias, may your bars be chalky and your vaults be fully rotated!