Running from the Facts: "Peeping Toms sure do hate perverts" edition

I often feel as if I could do the entire job of demonstrating the ingrained, purposeful failure of a lot of the goons I cover here by providing links to two seemingly unrelated stories by the same writer and observing nothing more than, “The same mind somehow produced both of these—you make sense of it.”

A new article in Women’s Running provides such an opportunity. I’ll summarize this for the people who don’t like lengthy dissections of the same dumb stuff written by the same people in one sentence: Erin Strout, writer of a series of ridiculously one-sided stories about transgender and intersex runners, is upset about a documentary about running that she believes fails to include enough female voices.

It has been evident for some time that the only men Strout approves of are the ones who opt out of their maleness, and last week’s rant is just another example. There are no parts that stand out in particular. But almost as if to ensure that everyone understands that her article is meant as a joke, Strout links to a 2019 “documentary” in the New York Times on the same subject, produced in part by Lindsay Crouse. Strout and Crouse independently have no credibility, but anyone who links to any of Crouse’s work is automatically suspect because Crouse is a proven and relentless liar.

The documentary, titled Nike’s Big Bet—which for now is viewable mostly or, absent a VPN, only in Canada—concerns the four-year suspension in 2019 of Alberto Salazar from track and field. I haven’t seen it, and if I do I’ll review it here, but I can ascertain that it shows a number of figures in the running world, ranging from genuine, unquestioned experts to genuine, uncontested misfires, commenting on whether Salazar’s methods, despite at least one technically illegality, were “actually wrong.” The devil’s advocate position—which, bear in mind, is basically the point of countless documentaries by lesser-known filmmakers—is that no positive drug tests were ever reported involving NOP athletes. (I refuse to say “No one ever tested positive,” because, accounting for in-house labs, I’ll never, ever believe that. Y’all can think what you want.)

For some reason that may be a coincidence despite the stupefying odds against this, the filmmaker, Paul Kemp—a Canadian (eh/mih) who easily outkicked me in a 10K in Toronto almost 26 years ago with absolutely nothing at stake—selected a panel of men to offer their input about whether Salazar deserved the boot or not, given the range of his alleged and well-demonstrated transgressions. The film appears to concede that Salazar is deeply disliked. (I would go further and say that he is un-liked; I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had intimate dealings with Salazar, often with booze on only one of our breath, and even those who appear to admire his on-paper success without envy express no warmth at all for the man. My own two interactions with him in a journalist capacity were uniformly unsatisfying, and in retrospect it should been obvious why.) I am tempted here to comment on the whole suite of commenters, but that adventure would, and probably soon will, consume several paragraphs on its own.

But returning to the point: Given the surface details, were I someone apparently interested in hearing solely about how bad for women the culture Alberto Salazar created inside the NOP was, I’d be angry after watching this video, too. My first impression, given the inclusion of Alex Hutchinson and Michael Joyner, was that the film investigated only or mostly the technical side of Salazar’s suspension. But I may have been wrong about this, and it appears that some attention may have been given to whether Salazar’s methods were abusive. It strains credulity that Kemp would try to sort this out using people with no direct insight, but maybe he did.

If so, why? Perhaps getting people only on the outside to comment was the whole point. After all, Pro Publica and many others already interviewed former NOP athletes and coaches for the 2015 go-around of stories that absolutely crushed Nike, the stock of which is now trading at almost 2-1/2 times what it was the day after David Epstein’s piece.

This of course doesn’t mean that the women and men of the NOP don’t have additional stories to tell, and that this isn’t happening elsewhere. It only means that these stories lie outside the purview of “Nike’s Big Bet.”

I do take issue with the description of the film provided by its producers, specifically this:

To his fans, including an outspoken Malcolm Gladwell, Salazar's methods justified the means by pushing the boundaries of what's fair in sport. But to others, including former protégés, he was abusive and manipulative—wielding an unchecked control over their careers and well-being. 

A similar claim appears in a different promo:

haters and defenders the world over went ballistic either maligning Salazar as a scourge on the sport, or in defending him as the greatest coach of all time, who had only the flimsiest of evidence lodged against him.

Kemp’s stance is thus clear: He thinks Salazar got the shaft. Again, this is not atypical of documentaries; it’s unusual to see one that doesn’t stack the deck in some way, either in favor of someone supposedly screwed from on high by the system or in favor of an institution (usually a corporation) that’s been screwing little people. No thinking person watches a documentary film expecting an objective presentation—which can’t be said for someone who visits a website called Women’s Running, an entity any reasonable person would assume isn’t filled with a stream of editorials framed as news and consistently ignoring or even maligning the interests and aspirations of the majority of female runners.

But these claims by Kemp’s team represent a false dichotomy. The reason is simple: It’s easy to find coaches whose objective success is unquestioned, but whose methods would be categorized as abusive by almost anyone without a psychopathic mindset. Salazar is one of them, along with countless gymnastics, ballet and other coaches who typically work with athletes starting at a young age and for many years.

Almost all of the foregoing, however, is detached from the one thing I want to hammer home: While millions of people can credibly complain about one-sided o otherwise slipshod track-and-field reporting; I’ve been known to do this myself from time to time. but the author of this piece, whose byline graces multiple articles that not exclude the perspective of biological girls from the trans-girls debate, but dismiss them as part of a bigot-laden Republican cabal, is not among them.

Strout expressed great pride in her explosion of chittering bombast on Instagram:

Strout is some combination of enslaved by misandrist impulses and just not very bright, so she gushingly admits that she’s using an official, if laughable, publication as a personal bullhorn for her butthurt. This is all the more poignant given that when I had the temerity to use my own blog as a personal bullhorn, Strout, whom I envision as part Yellow Brick Road hitchhiker and part Chuckie doll, went to some lengths to ensure that I wouldn’t be writing contributing any more completely impersonal training-related pieces to Podium Runner. This is emotional logic at its finest.

In case you’ve wondered who has been green-lighting all of Strout’s gender-related nonsense for Women’s Running, that would be the contributor of the “👏THIS👏” comment above, Jen Ator. In addition to being the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Ator is, according to her Twitter bio, a “big fan of gratitude, good wine, bold dreams, & living in the moment.” It’s too bad that, in addition to these vital assets, she hasn’t learned how to be an editor or has decided to attack the job with an inverted sense of ethics.

Anyone who is connected to reality and can even read the tripe that Strout excretes without wincing, much less assign it, should devote all of her time to vino and reveries and none to the publishing industry. Jen Ator is one more person proudly sucking at an editorial job in the fitness industry, but absent any sense of personal pride in her work, why should she care? This is all so very fashionable.

Again, because it’s important, one not-so-small difference between a production like this and an article in a trade publication called Women’s Running is that documentary filmmakers rarely feign objectivity; often, the whole point is to push or at least explore one side of a controversial narrative. But the different roles of different media aside, if Strout is pained—no, infuriated— that the voices of the many women runners whose experiences led to this story weren’t included in its narrative, then she should completely understand how I and many others react when seeing another of her stories about trans girls that exclude the voices of a whole nation of young female runners.

If she were writing for Wokish Sports Takes Weekly or some other unpretentiously partisan publication, sure, it would be fine to go ahead and fill readers’ heads with farcically slanted accounts. But if Strout wants to be known as anything more than a histrionic harpy churning out dreck for a tabloid intent on monetizing Wokism while posing as a useful running-related publication, she might consider this gentle bout of criticism and stop doing exactly what she hates seeing other content creators do, only more irresponsibly.

I don’t expect anyone as entrenched in an ideological stance as Strout is to change anything about that stance. But if she and her comrades-in-man-hating have found the acerbic nature of my output distressing, at a minimum, they should be able to empathize with the inclination to go that route. Being fed a farrago of straight-faced nonsense articles over a period of months—many of them not just wrong, but intentionally damaging to specific people—from writers and pundits supposedly supporting the same life-enriching enterprise I’ve dedicated much of my adult life to tends to put an ordinarily placid fellow on edge.

Other highlights from the week:

  • Zoe Hrom, whose name was Zoe Rom until recently, wrote an article for Trail Runner about the benefits and drawbacks of using cannabis, generally known as “smoking weed” or “doing edibles.” It’s a good story; I pitched one like it few years ago to a couple of rags; though I was not yet a taboo person, pot use by runners was still enough of a taboo topic for most editors to consider. This was a fun line:

    pesky federal laws barring scientists from distributing the drug in a controlled way

    Maybe Hrom changed her name on purpose, or perhaps one too many blunts caused some forgetfulness, but I hope she doesn’t keep adding letters because I’ll probably keep linking to her stories. I slapped her in an earlier post for invoking “white supremacy,” as I refuse to allow the normalization of Wokish stupidities like these in areas where they don’t belong. But she is interested in her topics and has a kind of earnestness on her side that her older peers lack, and I look forward to stalking her work.

  • Runner’s World published an article titled “New CDC Guidelines Say You Don’t Have to Wear a Mask When Running Outdoors.” Authored by Captain Obvious, this is a nice complement to a pair of pieces from the same publication: “We Tested a Variety of Face Masks to Find the Best Ones for Runners,” published in January, and “Should I Be Double-Masking When I Run?”, posted to the WR site just five days earlier.

  • Speaking of Lindsay Crouse, she has now had her fake-comeback column for the NYT pinned to the top of her Twitter profile for close to two months, and has proven impervious to repeated questions and hectoring about it. Other people have begun noticing that Crouse is a straight-up evil clown, a situation I take partial credit for even though Crouse herself is afraid of me, criticism generally, and reality itself.

  • Ben Chan, the pathetic and personality-disordered gadfly whose whining about Laz Lake earned him status as a public figure in the sad world of citizen running, reported in a bizarre Power Point-style Instagram presentation he’s tired of the abuse and is quitting running, a move akin to me quitting being a social-justice warrior. I doubt any of the assholes who magnified his bullshit story, including the two-twatted Molly Mirhashem-Martin Fritz Huber Outside monster, vaginal-pathology specialist Emilia Benton, and “We always say what pleases the most people” Citius Mag, will rise to his defense now; he’s served their self-promotional purposes already.

    But if Chan is serious about abandoning his version of running in a blaze of dickless butthurt, good. There’s no evidence he runs anything besides his mouth and keyboard anyway, and he’s a uniformly negative influence. Also note the inevitable Woke-on-Woke activity in the comments—Alison Desir is as much of an asshole as Chan is—something we* should be on the watch for as Wokism continues to extend its slimy tentacles further into places its slime is especially unwelcome.

  • Finally, Letsrun linked to an article about extraordinary high-school runners and how a rapid rise to the top isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As someone whose running is really more a wobble now, I don’t know what to make of it, but if it made the LRC front page, it must be worthwhile.

Sadly, it was otherwise a slow week, or maybe I just didn’t pick my head up enough. I’ll try to do better next time, and I continue to rely on your tips, so keep those coming so we* can all keep losing our squash at once.

Last fall, I understood that because of what I had started doing here, there were some people I like and respect in the running world, most of them old-timers, who were either going to mentally blacklist me forever or eventually offer some kind of acknowledgment that I’m not the only person harboring a lot of distaste for the circus of bullshit that seems to have pervaded the niche with frightening speed. Over the past few weeks, a few folks with longtime business ties to the running industry have reached out to say that they are considering stepping away from the game and investing their efforts elsewhere, either quietly or with parting shots to those who have made the environment intentionally feel unwelcome to people with normal thought processes.

All throughout, I have maintained absolute conviction in my posts as well as the stance motivating them, but I’m human, and it’s always reassuring to know that I have philosophical allies whose ideas and standing both matter to me as well as the running world at large. While I’m sad that these businesspersons also feel alienated by the antics of the Wokish and the querulously big-assed, it’s always nice to enjoy some positive reinforcement for an ongoing cascade of obligatory negativity.