Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Jenebah Tarmoh - Quitter

I am astounded that someone would write a column defending the decision of Jenebah Tarmoh not to compete in a match race against Alison Felix for a birth on the Olympic team.  http://aol.sportingnews.com/olympics/story/2012-07-03/jeneba-tarmoh-allyson-felix-100-meter-controversy-photo-finish-usa-track-field

The author, David Steele, is going with the "I was robbed so I shouldn't have to do it again" defense???  Jenebah Tarmoh was told she won - then she was told she didn't.  BUT she had not lost, she just needed to keep playing and see if she won.

So she chose........to quit. 

Why is Jenebah Tarmoh getting no support for her decision?  Because most people cannot possibly fathom a world class athlete just simply quitting.  Not "kinda" quitting like when your team is down 10 with a minute to go and your mind checks out.  Literally quitting.

Imagine that your team believes it has won the NBA conference finals on a last millisecond shot.  The three refs on the floor all say the shot was good.  After looking at 12 camera angles for 10 minutes, they all say "Nope, the ball was still in your hand at 0.00."  You would be pissed, perhaps rightfully so.  Especially if 1 or 2 of the refs later said, "well, I think it was good."

But now suppose that your disallowed basket only resulted in an overtime.  Would you refuse to go out for an overtime!?!?

Imagine if in the 1972 Olympics the IOC had told the U.S. basketball team, "You know what, we gave the Soviets 3 chances to win that game, and that shouldn't have happened, so now we will let you play a 1 minute overtime period."  Would the U.S. have refused to go out and play?  No.  They would have been ecstatic for the chance to win it on the court.  Would the Soviets have refused to play?  Never. 

Let us even accept the premise that Jenebah Tarmoh was screwed (a rather questionable premise in light of the photo we see which shows the runners' chest hitting the line at the same time).   What is the lesson here for young people?  That if you face any sort of unfair result that you should simply quit!?!?  "Jim, you know what, I need you to come back tomorrow to interview again because we are going to compare you to the boss's nephew who has a 4th grade education...."  The correct answer is "I am going to be there," not "Fuck you.  I refuse to interview again."  Think of the worst possible real life situation - "Your mom got a kidney!"  [But then 2 days later]
"HM, you need to race this 19 year old guy to see if your mom gets a kidney."  Well, that blows, but I guess I better show up and race.  Should I, instead, tell my mom, "Mom, I was so mentally pained when they said you didn't get the kidney that I cannot mentally force myself to race."   Is my mom going to say, "Oh, HM, I totally understand."  Putting aside the fact that my mom would never say those words, the answer is that she would NOT be very understanding.

"You won the lottery!"  {But 2 days later} "Well, wait, you need to show up and take an IQ test against this guy who we want to be the winner."  I mean, how much would THAT suck, but would you just refuse to show up????  Just show up!!  You know what, you might win. 

I do not attribute the actions of Jenebah Tarmoh to cowardice.  I also cannot attribute them to a lack of knowledge or guidance.  Her coach is Bob Kersee!  Her actions are a result of a lack of mental toughness.  This is a characteristic that, when present, keeps people from simply saying, "Oh fuck, this is too hard, I quit."  And make no mistake, what Jenebah Tarmoh has said here (amazingly, in almost these very words) is "This is too hard; I quit."



So, how do you defend what is an indefensible action?   One option would be to go with the "the real reason is that she is hurt" defense, which NBC attempted last night - to no avail.  Tarmoh would not say she was hurt.  Another defense would be "She was told to do this and is getting poor advice."  Again, offered up on TV and specifically rejected - "My coach said nothing."  [How her coach could say nothing is rather astounding and awful in itself, but that is what she said.]

David Steele, stripped of all of these defenses, claims that Tarmoh's response was, "You made this mess.  You clean it up."  What does that even mean?  First, if you thought you were screwed, make a timely appeal.  Bob Kersee is your coach, he knows how to make an appeal.  So the mechanism to start a "mess" cleanup was in your hands, and you sat on your ass and did nothing.

Second, no one is aware that there is a "mess" to clean up.  Do you really think there is a public outcry after looking at the picture to declare that tarmoh was the winner?  PERHAPS if the winning runner were one race and the losing runner another race, you would at least have racial division and outrage.  And if one runner were, say, LeBron James and had a long history of love-hate public opinion, then perhaps you would have something.  But I think 96% of America doesn't even know about this race and another 3.99999999999999% of America believes that when two people are this close (either a dead heat or a .001 second difference) then a match race is the fair and proper result. 

Third, "You clean it up."  Do you think the powers that be will get any heat for Tarmoh deciding to quit?  They gave her a shot, and she told them (and the 4% of American who knew about this) to go fuck themselves.  Who is the bad guy here?  Certainly not the people who offered up a 50-50% shot at an Olympic birth.

And perhaps there lies the rub - Tarmoh knew it wasn't a 50-50% shot.  She knew she had been unbelievably lucky to tie Felix and knew the rematch would be horribly one-sided.  If so, then she not only lacks mental toughness, she lacks confidence - hardly the ideal representative to be sending to London.  In the end, perhaps the OFFER of the match race was the correct tiebreaker.  The person who was self-assured and confident accepted immediately and the one who felt she had lucked in to the Olympics refused.  Much like the two women asking Solomon for the baby, one had the correct answer and the other did not.

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