A few things I care about . . .
■ Will USA Gymnastics ever get it right?
Throw another log onto the ongoing dumpster fire that is USAG, the organization that oversees one of the most popular sports among girls and young women in this country yet continues to fail these athletes at every turn.
The search for stability in the form of a new president took two hideous turns this past week, one exposing more ugliness in the organization’s past, the other casting more doubt on its ability to make a smart decision moving forward.
Late Wednesday night, former USAG president Steve Penny was arrested at his cabin in Tennessee, the end of an investigation by Texas Deputy US Marshals and members of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force. Penny is charged with felony evidence tampering in the wake of a grand jury indictment for removing documents from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, the former site of the US national training center.
The ranch is one of the locations where multiple gymnasts allege that convicted sex offender/faux team doctor Larry Nassar abused them, and Penny is charged with removing medical records after learning of the investigation into Nassar’s activities. The records reportedly have not been recovered since they were delivered to Penny in Indianapolis.
The Walker County district attorney’s office made it clear what they believe of Penny’s intentions, saying in a statement that he ordered the removal “for the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents.”
Penny is facing jail time now, but it wasn’t long ago when he was digging in his heels at USAG, resigning in March 2017 only after public pressure got too intense.
While the organization tries to remain certified by the US Olympic Committee — changing board members, commissioning an independent investigation, etc. — its latest candidate to replace Penny was an(other) abject failure.
Former Congresswoman Mary Bono lasted less than a week after leading voices in the sport revolted over (and were revolted by) her connections to one of the law firms that helped USAG come up with false explanations for Nassar’s absence while he was under investigation. Some were also upset by one of Bono’s past tweets in which she markered over a Nike logo on her golf shoe in protest of Nike’s ad campaign featuring social activist Colin Kaepernick.
To me, the Nike protest shouldn’t matter. Bono has a right to free speech, just as Kaepernick does. But the fact she had any connection to the Nassar mess should have disqualified her immediately. But USAG seems incapable of thinking beyond its insular world, which is part of the reason it’s in this mess in the first place.
This was Aly Raisman on Twitter when Bono was appointed: “My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015. We now know USOC & lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels (Mary Bono’s firm) were also told then, yet Nassar continued to abuse children for 13 months!? Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?
“Clearly this is not a ‘new’ USAG. Same corrupt decisions. Perhaps it’s because true accountability is less likely if authority is placed in the hands of someone similarly motivated to avoid it . . .
“Survivors, current gymnasts, families, coaches, gymnastics community & fans deserve better. We can’t move forward until we know exactly what happened. USAG take accountability, be transparent, release all your documents & data. PLEASE tell the truth. This is so devastating.”
And this is her after Bono’s statement of resignation was met by an(other) USAG statement promising change. “The Olympic family fails us again. Another poor hire + familiar statements. Don’t worry, USAG/USOC will search for the right leader. . . again. Meanwhile, gymnasts prepare for World Championships during another organizational leadership crisis. But hey, athletes are the top priority.
“The arrogance it must take for the board to credit itself for its commitment to take action just because it accepts the resignation of the new CEO whose hiring it celebrated just days ago.”
In the words of another gymnastics standout, Simone Biles: *mouth drop.*
■ Lots of amazing talent in this thrilling ALCS, including the most impressive amount of outfield talent I can ever remember watching in one series. From Andrew Benintendi’s nervy, game-saving catch to end Game 4, to Mookie Betts’s strike to second base to start the eighth inning, from Tony Kemp’s Spiderman wall-climbing abilities, to Betts’s similar acrobatics, the outfielders have been amazing.
■ Still, as good as the series has been, these same gripes hold true: The games start too late and they go on too long. I’m all for getting calls right (and replay in the case of Betts’s fan interference call was a good thing), but replay on every bang-bang play on the basepaths is tedious and time-consuming.
■ As someone who grew up watching the New York Giants (with a father who was an early season ticket-holder making treks to Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl, and East Rutherford, N.J.), I second Bill Belichick’s Wednesday sentiment. No one is in Lawrence Taylor’s class. No one. He changed games and he changed the game. His 97-yard Thanksgiving pick-6 in 1982 is still a marvel of athletic ability and football awareness. And he didn’t even have to sack the quarterback on that one.
■ Not going to lie: As much fun as Jackie Bradley Jr.’s hot streak has been to watch at the plate, no swing was sweeter than the one that connected for a grand slam off Astros closer Roberto Osuna. Score one for the karma gods.
■ An eight-year anniversary in college football passed last week, and though it won’t make much of a ripple up here in New England, it is seared in my memory. The hit that left Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand paralyzed from the shoulders down was devastating.
But the journey LeGrand has been on since then is the most inspiring I have ever witnessed.
If you don’t know him, look him up, buy his book “Believe,” and root for him to continue to inspire others with his voice, his fund-raising efforts, and his overall incredible outlook on life.
■ Shout out to stellar Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay, who is 100 percent right in decrying the explosion of those postseason team sweatshirts with cheesy slogans. Go back to the satin baseball jacket — the best coaching attire in sports.
■ I know I’m still getting my Boston sea legs, but the three-game local swing I got to go on this past week sure helped. Fenway Park Saturday night for the Red Sox in the ALCS, Gillette Stadium Sunday night for the Patriots’ amazing shootout with Kansas City, and TD Garden Tuesday night for the Celtics’ dominant home opener. Bruins, I’m coming for you.
■ Globe colleague and intrepid Red Sox beat reporter Pete Abraham has had many, many great lines this season. This one is among my favorite: “In a radio booth behind home plate, Joe Castiglione fell out of his chair in excitement as he called the final out of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, an 8-6 victory for the Red Sox Wednesday night.”
As I like to say, a reporter’s best weapon are the eyes. PeteAbe knows how to use his.