Women’s soccer, the new league and Hope Solo: Can’t we all just get along?

We got two fillings for THIS?

There’s three sides to every story — yours and mine and the cold, hard truth Don Henley

There’s blood in my mouth ’cause I’ve been biting my tongue all week Rilo Kiley

Jules: Yolanda, I thought you said you were gonna be cool. Now when you yell at me, it makes me nervous. And when I get nervous, I get scared. And when (bleepers) get scared, that’s when (bleepers) accidentally get shot.
Yolanda: You just know, you touch him, you die.
Jules: Well, that seems to be the situation. But I don’t want that. And you don’t want that. And Ringo here *definitely* doesn’t want that.Pulp Fiction

Maybe I’m reaching with the last one. Perhaps I should’ve skipped to the part where Jules says the Ezekiel verse one last time and says he’s trying real hard to be the shepherd. The U.S. women’s soccer community could use a shepherd.

As you know if you follow me on Twitter, I bought Hope Solo’s memoir, skimmed the personal parts and read the soccer parts. No offense intended to her personal story — I was just in a hurry to learn what she had said.

I mentioned a couple of things that surprised me. One was a quote that I thought could be taken the wrong way. Another was that she reiterated her racism accusations against Boston Breakers fans, accusations that most of us thought had been put to rest.

People were angry with me. A couple of them were people I respect and like, and we talked it out. A couple were people I don’t know as well who slung a few drive-by insults at me and declined to elaborate on what exactly I’d said.

The latter isn’t a surprise. Solo has a legion of fans who will mobilize against any alleged “hater,” even if she doesn’t ask them to do so. Just check out the reviews at Amazon, where the one person to say anything negative is marked with the dreaded “1 in 24 people found the following review helpful.” (To be sure, the review doesn’t say much. But some of the other reviews marked as “helpful” are simply insane.)

If anyone’s reading here wondering if I’m going to be a “hater,” you might be disappointed. I didn’t hate this book. Her story is well-written — co-writer Ann Killion is never one to mince words (ask Don Garber), and the book moves briskly. And though some people come across better than others, this book wasn’t written to settle grudges. It’s her story. She spends much more time talking about the truly important people in her life — family and a few supportive coaches — than she does about her conflicts. Plenty of people will find this book inspiring.

If you read the book, just remember the Don Henley quote here. There are multiple sides to every story.

The one thing that has to be addressed is the Boston incident. A statement from the Breakers and the Atlanta Beat concluded that a “few individual fans” shouted abusive comments but that the “remarks were from a few individuals and not representative of the Breakers organization or the Riptide supporters group.” Given that, Solo’s book hardly seems fair in saying, “But that night, the members of a Breakers fan club called the Riptide went way too far.” She says she was accused of lying about it, but in the end, “an apology was sent to our team.”

Again — multiple sides to every story. In this case, another side is documented for all to see.

In other cases, the multiple sides aren’t documented. Greg Ryan has responded to the book, but only to deny a physical altercation. He’s not going point by point through Solo’s chronology of events, in which he tells her she was benched in 2007 for missing curfew and a team meeting (a well-kept team secret) — but only well after everything has blown up in the media.

Other people who come across badly in the book may choose not to respond and not to get in a “she said/she said” clash with Solo and her Twitter-crazed fans. That’s their choice.

So please don’t let the book color your impressions of “the 99ers,” the veterans with whom Solo clashes. Or U.S. WNT press officer Aaron Heifetz, a dedicated professional who has put up with a lot. Just bear in mind that they have their own stories to tell, whether they choose to tell them or not.

And that’s not to say their story is right and Solo’s is wrong. Maybe some things are simply misunderstood. Maybe some personalities simply don’t mesh, and people see things a different way. Maybe some people didn’t mean for their words to come out the way they did.

One Tweet today stood out for me:

If you could summarize a book in 140 characters, that might do it. Solo chooses her friends, very carefully. She doesn’t do things exactly the same way as others, and that surely caused some consternation among “the 99ers.” You don’t just toss the same-colored shirt to Solo and 10 other people and tell them to be best friends. And she’s clearly hypersensitive to cliquish behavior, as many of us are. We’ve always known Solo is — pardon the redundancy — a unique individual. Her book explains, quite reasonably, why that’s the case.

So that’s Solo’s book. Now, maybe 900 words into this, let’s get to the real problems in women’s soccer.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the plans for a new women’s soccer league next season are short on specifics. And that announcement has been followed by cryptic comments from Seattle Sounders Women and silence from the USL/W-League.

Would it be unfair to conclude that some turf wars are being fought behind the scenes? Hmmmm … no. It would not.

The WPSL and W-League have had a contentious relationship for years. Now we’re adding former WPS teams to the mix. And we don’t know if Dan Borislow has any plans.

The men went through turf wars as well. The decision to grant Division I status to Major League Soccer in 1993 was contentious, and it was a substantial part of a lawsuit that dragged on for years.

U.S. Soccer stuck with MLS through it all. They may need to pick a winning horse on the women’s side, too.

So the lesson here is that women’s soccer today is fraught with pettiness. That doesn’t mean any one person or any one entity is completely in the wrong. It just means people aren’t in a mood to set aside differences.

The epilogue to Solo’s book provides no comfort. She claims the team had a bonding moment — against Brandi Chastain. Watch Shelley Smith’s visceral reaction in the video on that story, and you’ll wonder if the team has united against its oldest fans.

It’s not Solo’s job (nor, in this case at least, Killion’s) to give an exhaustive investigation of all sides of every issue. It’s a memoir. In terms of general tone, her book falls in between the two MMA memoirs I’ve read recently — Randy Couture is apologetic for his faults and generous to his detractors, BJ Penn is not. The difference is that Couture and Penn are in an individual sport. The UFC fan base is supposed to split into Team Penn and Team Matt Hughes. It’s a little uglier to see the USWNT fan base splintering into Team Hope and Team Brandi.

The 99ers, of course, have had their own books, hailing their unselfish triumphs over naysayers that paved the way for more success in women’s sports. Perhaps those books have built up an unrealistic myth. But the truth shouldn’t be forgotten: These players accomplished more than we can imagine, and when the spotlight turned to Mia Hamm, she did everything she could to divert it elsewhere. (When do Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe get their big-time endorsements and ESPN Body Issue photo shoots? Or their two fillings?)

Back to Solo’s epilogue — a question has gone unanswered: Who, immediately after an important win in the Olympics, is sending U.S. players snippets of what Chastain is saying on the broadcasts? Probably not family. It’s hard to imagine that the first thing Hope Solo’s family sent her wasn’t “Great job Hope! We love you!” but “Hey, Brandi said all these nasty things about Rachel!”

More likely, it’s someone with an ax to grind. Someone who says commentators should be more supportive, then goes out to create more divisions.

(And please don’t tell me, “Oh, I don’t like Brandi either.” That’s your right as a viewer. No broadcaster has universal appeal — I listened slack-jawed at a sports bar as English fans dissed the legendary Martin Tyler. But the U.S. players weren’t sitting down and watching the broadcast. They got a few snippets of information — out of context, not representative of the broadcast, from someone with an ax to grind — and decided she was being too negative.)

Want something positive to take away from all this? Here it is.

Pia Sundhage has done a remarkable job as U.S. coach. No, she hasn’t transformed the direct, athletic U.S. team into the female Barcelona. But she has kept this powder keg of raw emotions calm. She — and perhaps the quiet leaders Rampone and Wambach — kept this team united even as they all knew that their actions and conflicts, past and present, were about to be under heavy scrutiny. And for all her “glass half full” sunniness, she stood up to Solo, getting her to release her book after the Olympics. Can anyone doubt that was the right move?

Now if anyone can be that unifying force for U.S. women’s soccer as a whole, we’ll be getting somewhere.

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14 thoughts on “Women’s soccer, the new league and Hope Solo: Can’t we all just get along?

  1. Good for you for reading it so quick and getting this out there. I, personally, am a “hater” because I simply can’t fathom the mindset of someone so gifted, so fortunate who decides to spend a large share of their time worrying about why they aren’t as loved as others who were gifted and fortunate.

    I’ll say this, even as there is this unreasonable notion that you need to kiss Julie Foudy’s ring when you deign to criticize the 99ers. Hope Solo has managed to turn Julie into a possibly sympathetic figure on the American soccer scene simply because she throws people under the bus to put the spotlight on her insecurities.

    You’re smart. You’re pretty. You’re damn talented. Now shut up about all the things you think are unfair because that’s obscuring seeing those other qualities.

  2. Okay, I’ve been following this team for a while… what’s the deal with “fillings”? Google hasn’t helped me finding an answer.

  3. Okay, the picture helped me figure it out. I had forgotten all about that commercial. Surprised it’s been referenced so much lately.

  4. Pingback: QWK KCKS: | KCKRS
  5. You totally stole my joke from bigsoccer. But I like you so I’ll get over it 😀 😛

    The current bs chatter is fact checking her “WUSA didn’t have keeper coaches” claim. A false claim.

    And my bet is that Galanis is involved in sending info about the commentary.

  6. BigSoccer is doing some really terrific crowd-sourcing!

    I had never seen this story from 2007, in which Ryan talks about violations of team rules and says Scurry was doing better than Solo in practice:

    http://www.azcentral.com/sports/azetc/articles/1219ryan.html?&wired

    That said, was it a good move — strictly from a playing perspective — to bench Solo? Absolutely not. Thanks to the absence of a U.S. pro league, Scurry had played just a handful of competitive games in a three-year span. And with all due respect to the ever-classy Scurry, I think her rust showed in that game.

  7. I think the haters would do well to remember that at the very beginning of the book, Solo says that events and people “are portrayed the way [she] experienced them.” Of course they won’t. I’ve long appreciated Solo’s talent as a GK, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read this book with a huge grain of salt. If anything, I think this book is far more telling about how Hope Solo perceives everyone, rather than how they actually are. Of course, that happens in a memoir and on that count the book is quite good at revealing her worldview and how it was formed. It’s just when people take her book as the gospel truth that we get into trouble.

  8. @Beau: She never claimed the WUSA didn’t have goalkeeping coaches. Rather, she claimed that the Philadelphia Charge didn’t have a goalkeeping coach in 2003 (see pg. 106).
    But congradulations to the Big Soccer community for debunking a claim she never made.

  9. Yes, Wear, I mentioned that in the BigSoccer thread. The claim was also raised in the BigSoccer thread, not the book, as I said in the thread.

    Can I charge Nike and Gatorade for advertising each time you post?

  10. @Beau: Fair enough. I managed to misspell congratulations, so you can see how brilliant I am.
    I only took my name because they are important lessons I’ve learned from watching sports over the course of my life.

  11. Interesting. You seem to tread the middle ground, however. Couple things.

    “Back to Solo’s epilogue — a question has gone unanswered: Who, immediately after an important win in the Olympics, is sending U.S. players snippets of what Chastain is saying on the broadcasts?”

    I can’t believe you would state that, given all that’s been written about the even over last couple wks. Answer is obvious: SOLO. Question: Who else, frankly and really, truly gives a damn about what a commentator said about the victory.

    This is 2012. PLayers are human beings. You really think they were all soooo worried and concerned what Brandi was saying? No. They were mostly likely unwinding, checking facebk, their own twitter, amazon, family texts, etc. Just chillin, and unwinding. Who else would really care about this sort of petty minded stuff except a narcissist, namely, Solo?

    You write:
    “More likely, it’s someone with an ax to grind. Someone who says commentators should be more supportive, then goes out to create more divisions.” Yes it is, and that’s clearly SOLO that has an ax to grind, like duh. Notice the publicity when she did it? During a game she had little else to do? But hey, even the commentators noticed correctly that this makes for good pre publicity for her upcoming Memoir.

    Again:
    Actually, it IS SOLO’s responsibility to accurately tell detailed events that involve other actual people, particularly if it is controversial. The Ryan Shoving incident: This is a fairly serious accusation the “shoving” incident. If Solo can’t back it up conclusively, that could be in a court of law a defamation of character as well as Libel.

    Interesting how you strain to be fair minded, give her side of story. That is commendable. However, sometimes, an athlete is in the wrong. If it continually happens over a period of yrs, that suggests a pattern. Of. Narcisstic behavior.

    Throughout the book, her petty, catty, overdramatized, vindictive, spiteful attitude shines through. It’s not enough 5 YEARS AFTER THE FACT that yes, Ryan lost the semifinals (Scurry all by herself, really? Score was 4-0, so others didnt help out either) Ryan must now also be made in print to appear as a total loser as well. I’m glad he immediately took issue with how he was portrayed regarding a physical action (IF it actually happened at all) and stood up for himself and his reputation as a coach.
    Let it go, Hope. Let it go. Oh, that’s right, she can’t.

    See, this is partly what those who have problems with this athlete have been saying. Why does it seem that nearly every time there is controversy that this person is a part of it? A bit like Tyrrell Owens in NFL. And the comparison continues: How come, it’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault and not hers? Fair point. Narcissist.
    Point: Coach Sundrhage doesnt have the “power” or influence to demand that Solo not release her book til after the Olympics. That is pure naivete and clearly ridiculous. Harper Collins had made the business decision months in advance when to release her book: AFTER the Olympics for full maximum impact. Come on. That’s an obvious one. That’s why the epilogue has her “diary” of the Olympics. You probably are aware that the USWNT was expected to at least win Silver and we had a strong chance to go Gold. Either way, its great publicity for her book, which is what she wants.

    I can understand why you skimmed over the parts about her family upbringing etc. She has given a myriad of confusing stories over the yrs regarding her parents, so it’s nice that she can clear it all up, and all for 24.99.

    Her name is Solo for a reason. All about herself. And not really a very good classy teammate, (a la Rampone, Wambach, Cheney, heath, Morgan, et al) This is a narcissist. All about herself and throws anyone under the bus whom she so pleases.

    Irony: You comment on future fate of women’s soccer. it’s biggest public face doesnt give a lot of good will toward it, does it? Which is bigger: Solo or women’s soccer (as though many millions truly care)

  12. Fair point you make as well:

    “That said, was it a good move — strictly from a playing perspective — to bench Solo? Absolutely not. Thanks to the absence of a U.S. pro league, Scurry had played just a handful of competitive games in a three-year span. And with all due respect to the ever-classy Scurry, I think her rust showed in that game.”

    Hindsight = 20/20. Brazil, led by Marta would just as likely have done well vs Solo. We seem to forget that part of it. They did pretty well in the final, no? There was no pro league that yr either, it hurt Scurry more who was late 30’s at the time. That had more to do with it.

    One question: Why is it perfectly acceptable for an athlete to walk out on a coach who isn’t done addressing her in a private meeting? I must’ve missed that. Why is that okay?

    Actually, let’s give Coach Ryan this much: knowing how rusty Scurry was, he still stuck to his guns and played her over Solo. Willing to stand by his decision come what may. Not backing down, and not bringing it up ad infinitem over last 5 yrs like a certain player has.

    “Solo chooses her friends, very carefully. She doesn’t do things exactly the same way as others, and that surely caused some consternation among “the 99ers.” You don’t just toss the same-colored shirt to Solo and 10 other people and tell them to be best friends. And she’s clearly hypersensitive to cliquish behavior, as many of us are. We’ve always known Solo is — pardon the redundancy — a unique individual. Her book explains, quite reasonably, why that’s the case.”

    Uh, yes it does. She’s a narcissist. Its all about herself. Much like Ty Cobb or Billy Martin. The team isn’t asking for friends, they do expect professionalism on the field as well as during the time spent together. Calling out a coach on his decision simply isn’t done very often. It was wrong then, it is wrong now. Take it behind closed doors if situation is warranted.

    A “Bonding Moment”. Irony. Why, because her teammates supported HER and HER actions? Come now. Bonding moment. Talk about self serving, self justifiying, vindictive,…athlete.

    Truly amazing. How old is this person again who has to tweet about a commentator, 19 yrs old, 22 yrs old? College aged? Oh that’s right. She’s 30. A fully grown mature woman. Sort of. Kind of. Well…

    I do hope that you never get on her bad side, by the way… Be careful not to overtly criticize her too loudly in public or on a TV…and see what happens.

    Just go back and re read the various interviews she gives. This doesnt sound like a stable psychologically adjusted individual.

    You have a good day.

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