The runner stumbles

I know almost nothing about sports.  Just yesterday I had to fake my way through a conversation about “the Bears” without giving away the fact that I didn’t know in what sport these ursine athletes compete (football, it turns out).

I’d certainly never heard of Suzy Favor Hamilton, but she is considered one of the country’s best-ever middle-distance runners.  The lady is fast.  She set a women’s world-record for the 1500 meter, with 3:57.40.  That’s equivalent to a mile in 4:14.70.  It’s 14 mph.  I don’t go that fast on my bicycle.  At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she won nine NCAA individual titles

She went to the Olympics in 1992 and 1996 but came home empty-handed.  Sydney in 2000 was her last best chance. Her brother Dan had committed suicide the year before, and she had resolved to win a medal in the 1500 to honor his memory.  And why not?  She held the record at that distance, why shouldn’t she expect to take home the gold?

So she ran.  The gun went off, and the fastest woman in the world, the best middle-distance runner the US has ever produced, ran and ran and ran.

Like a lot of people who want something too much, she pushed too hard.  She was out in front the whole race, way ahead, but at 1300 meters, she was exhausted.  The Algerian girl, Nouria Mérah-Benida, came out of nowhere and passed her, as did the two Romanians.  Hamilton knew the race, her last Olympic race, her last chance, was over; the gold medal that was supposed to honor her brother was lost like the brother himself.

Like a lot of people who know they cannot win, she refused to even lose.  In the family tradition, she threw herself to the cinder track.

Her post-Sydney career was superficially like that of a lot of former Olympians. She wrote a book, Fast Track.  She gave motivational speeches for employees of huge, soul-crushing corporations. She did commercials for Nike and Reebok.  The Nike ad is actually pretty funny: a pastiche of horror movies where Hamilton, in Nikes and  underclothing, is pursued through a dark forest by a masked chainsaw-wielding psycho.  Unlike in the movies, she easily outpaces her attacker, leaving him wheezing and stumbling as she disappears down the road.

Hamilton wasn’t exactly like other ex-athletes.  Whenever she went to another city, she would place an ad online and meet men for sex, charging them $600 an hour for her services.  (As I say, I know little about sports, I presume this isn’t the usual behavior for ex-athletes.)

There’s a lot about this I don’t understand.  I don’t know much more about prostitution than I do about sports, but $600 for an hour sounds like a lot of money to me, expecially for a 44-year-old with a mannish face, a body (to judge from the news photos) that is apparently made mostly out of beef jerky, and smaller boobs than, for instance, me.  I guess there might be certain appeal to screwing even a minor celebrity, but she didn’t use her real name professionally.  I don’t why: “Suzy Favor” is at least porn-ready a name as “Dick Butkis” (another real-life athlete, as it turns out, and not a porn star at all).

And I don’t understand why she apologized.  I realize it’s de riguer to apologize and “take full responsibility” when you’re caught, but she was only caught by a reporter and a Smoking Gun reporter at that, not even somebody from TMZ.  Her husband already knew about his wife’s sideline (although, as she huffed to an interviewer, “he wasn’t at all supportive”).  Technically, she was violating the law, but she isn’t going to be charged.  So what’s she sorry about?

Two questions I hear asked about her case, though, that I can answer perfectly well, because they have the same answer.  First, why did she tell customers she was in fact Suzy Hamilton, Olympic runner, and not just Kelly Lundy, $600-an-hour piece of ass?  That was how she got caught, she couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

Second, and more central, why did she do it at all?  She and her husband both had good jobs, lived in Wisconsin, not exactly the high-rent district, they didn’t need the money.  She had problems with depression, but any woman who believes having sex with unattractive male stranger would make her less depressed should contact me at this address and find out just how wrong she can be.

Why did she prostitute herself?  Why did she tell customers her real name?  Why did she even admit to hooking when the nosy parker from Smoking Gun asked her, instead of lying her skinny ass off?  Same reason she fell at Sydney 12 years ago and probably the same reason her brother killed himself: some people, if they can’t win, would rather destroy themselves than lose.  This was just her way of falling to the track.

Despite her lack (in my opinion) of physical attractiveness, Hamilton is far from a worst-case scenario.  Imagine it had been, say, McKayla Maroney.  Sure, she’s younger and more appealing than Hamilton, a surprisingly curvy body for a top gymnast, a clever face, and a cute, retroussé nose.  But how excruciating would be to hire her for an hour, and then strip naked and have her give you that look.

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