What happens when we don’t trust gym media — Other gym news — My favorite routines of NCAA Week 2

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Jan. 21, 2023

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The gymternet was all atwitter this week after GymCastic reported that an anonymous judge sent them an email about a television producer asking judges to give more 10s, “because we haven’t seen any yet.”

I have three issues with what happened next, and two of them are not even about NCAA judging. 

The first was that people immediately disbelieved the story because GymCastic reported it. I’ve talked about this here before, but people. GymCastic, and its host Jessica O’Beirne, are reputable journalistic sources. No, they have not always been. But here’s the important part: They acknowledge that they were not, and they acknowledge that they took the initiative to become so.

As I have said before, I believe that much of the distrust of both GymCastic and O’Beirne is because O’Beirne is female. People will tap dance around this for the length of a production of Stomp, but what they are really saying when they ask why there isn’t a reliable gymnastics writer or why there isn’t someone covering the sport full time is, why doesn’t someone get a man on this? 

The second was that GymCastic kept the identity of its source anonymous. As someone who moderated reader comments for a major newspaper for many years, I know that anonymous sources really get under people’s skin. But anonymity is not granted lightly by any publication; a source must fear retribution or the loss of a job or other authority if their identity is revealed.

I have had people tell me they do not want their names used for much lesser reasons, and I have refused them because I did not feel that they met the criteria for keeping their identity a secret. Not wanting your neighbor to see your political opinion in print, for example, is not a reason for me to grant you anonymity.

An NCAA judge saying that a television producer was trying to influence the outcome of a meet that they were broadcasting is a big accusation, and could definitely harm the reputations of both the judge (unfairly) and the producer (fairly). Almost no one publishes an anonymous source without receipts, even though you as the reader or listener may never be able to access those receipts.

One thing people always say about anonymous sources is that they could just be made up. I mean, sure, but that usually ends really badly for journalists. (See: Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke.) That’s a career ender for sure. So why risk it? Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, no one’s risking it. Including GymCastic.

And finally, acting like this could never happen in gymnastics is simply denying reality. It’s a subjectively judged sport. As we saw during the 2002 Olympics, subjective judges can absolutely be swayed. To say that it would never happen in a “real” sport is also denying reality. Football producers, for example, have access to camera angles that referees do not. They live constantly on the edge of knowing they hold information that could influence the game one way or the other.

There are lots of checks and balances in place to make sure this does not happen, but to pretend it is impossible is just averting your eyes from the evidence. I would like to think that, like our NCAA judge told GymCastic they did, most judges would rebuff the producer’s plea to produce more 10s simply for television. Should the producer take an ethics class? Yes. Should the TV network find another producer? Yes. Do we need all the receipts to prove these things happened? No. Sure, we’d all love to take out our pitchforks against whatever network tried to influence the action – but that’s probably not how it’s going to work out. 

Let’s commend the judge for speaking out, let’s understand that they did it anonymously to protect a career (and maybe two careers, as the producer is innocent until proven guilty), and let’s stop scolding GymCastic for past misdeeds and accept that this reporting is the real deal and so is O’Beirne. Let’s hope that this brings attention to the relationship between TV cameras and our sport, and that gymnastics comes out on the winning side. 

Other gym news

Week 2 of NCAA happened, of course. 

Spencer, as always, covered the week in GIFs over at The Balance Beam Situation. If you don’t read BBS for anything else – and you should read BBS for EVERYTHING else – read it for this weekly post during the NCAA season.

You can check out all the scores at Road to Nationals if you’re interested in numbers. I’m mostly talking about my feelings here, but I don’t want to ignore those of you who need facts too.

Florida beat Auburn, and I got to talk about it live right here on Playback for The IX. If you missed it, they’re giving me more shots, and I’ll keep you posted! It was super fun to contribute to the conversation and while I’m no Kathy Johnson Clarke, I hope it was informative for listeners. Let me know what other meets you would like to watch in this format, please! Leanne Wong got two 10s on bars and beam and while you can argue that neither was the 10iest 10 that ever 10ed, it’s great to see her back strong from the ankle injuries that plagued her elite season. Trinity Thomas got a 10 on floor, which was a 10ier 10. 

At the Kentucky-LSU meet, we saw the action halted while Kentucky coach Tim Garrison sent security into the stands over a light that was shining in gymnasts’ faces. Turned out to be a little kid; still, you can never be too careful and it was great to see a coach stand up for his athletes. 

Kentucky beat LSU. A big win for Kentucky at home as they broke the 197 barrier, but 
a real heartbreaker for LSU as Kiya Johnson tore her Achilles on floor and is out for the season.

Given that scare, it was nice to see LSU come close to Oklahoma two days later at home. OU won, but it was closer than they probably would have liked. LSU showed that they can come up with new lineups on the fly, and OU showed some hoppy landings for a score they’ll like to drop.

At the Wasatch Classic, UCLA came out as the winner of the eight teams competing. UCLA is BACK, baby. They are ranked first in the Pac-12 and fourth in the country. Sure, they could have harder vaults and adjust some landings but the mood is so much better for the team overall, it’s a pleasure to see.

Oregon State came in third at the Wasatch Classic, but the big news for them was Jade Carey’s two 10s on vault and floor. Carey and Wong are now leading the charge to see who can get a college 40. You know it’s coming, might as well enjoy the show. 

Michigan beat Denver and Fisk at home. Missouri topped Georgia at home, though Georgia’s probably pretty happy about cracking 196. They did it again Monday, but this time Ohio State came out on top. Alabama bested Georgia on the road. Utah came out on top at Best of Utah against its Beehive State rivals, Southern Utah, Utah State, and BYU. 

Suni Lee is training the Khorkina vault. 

Simone Biles talks moving beyond gymnastics and into the business world. 

A local news story championing Fisk star Morgan Price

Speaking of Fisk, they’re getting lots of love from fellow HBCUs on the road. 

BYU’s Rebekah Ripley goes behind the scenes of her viral Barbie Girl routine

Former elites on loving gymnastics again at Iowa State

Bailey Ferrer gave a podcast interview about her LSU career

How eMjae Frazier is killing it at Cal.

Five at The IX

I am, once again, giving you my five favorite NCAA routines from the week here: One on each event, and one bonus.

KJ Johnson’s giant Yurchenko full (for LSU vs. Oklahoma). Like Kathy says: Check out the flare at the end. 

Natalie Wojcik’s It’s a Deltchev! (For Michigan vs. Fisk and Penn State). This routine’s always been great, and this is the last year to catch it. 

Kara Eaker’s perfect beam (for Utah at Best of Utah). What gets me: Her whole body down to her fingertips is involved in this routine. 

Bonus Utah beam: Grace McCallum counting her wolf turns on her hand before continuing. THE BEST.

This routine was a last-minute sub, and the tumbling was not all the way there, but it’s still a stunner. Morgan Hurd’s floor debut for Florida. The DANCING.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore