Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hope Solo: Rougish Hero or Rebel Scum?

Some have cheered her forthright criticism of her coach, Greg Ryan, after his rather boulder-headed decision to plunk her down on the bench for the semifinal World Cup game against Brazil, a decision that led to Brazil's 4-0 defeat of the U.S. team. Yet, most would say that to publicly bad-mouth the coach is always inappropriate. And when star goalie Hope Solo started-in on teammate Briana Scurry, saying:
There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves... It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters...
well, most people considered that just incredibly bad form.

Now, though, Solo's career is in question. She was not permitted to attend the game in which the U.S. beat Norway 4-1 to win the bronze, a choice defended by Captain Kristine Lilly with the explanation "...her going public has affected the whole group ... having her with us would still be a distraction." It will be hard for Solo to reconcile with her team, and rumors are circulating that the players have shunned Solo, not allowing her to eat with them. And the question looms: will Hope Solo be allowed to compete for her country in the 2008 Olympics?

Yet, while we debate the severity of Solo's indiscretion, it must be acknowledged that her words have launched both her and her team - her whole sport, in fact - into a media spotlight that might not have accessible under any other circumstances. Few people in the States have been watching the early morning matches or talking about the team's performance in this major international competition. Now, thanks to some drama, the media is awash in stories about soccer and speculations about who will be joining the team for the Olympic games. This new-found (and perhaps ill-begotten) attention brings up the perennial question of what we want from our athletes. If we are looking for them to be physically fit character education guest speakers around the country's middle schools, then perhaps Solo has ruined her credibility. If we want them to be international contenders, then perhaps the unbeaten Solo should be given another chance. And if entertainment is what we want from our athletes - well, it doesn't get much better than a public show-down.

It seems to me that female athletes, in particular, are too often expected to fall into the first category; we want them to serve as pretty and accessible character role models who embody the qualities of 'sugar and spice and everything nice' along with dedication and athleticism. For Hope Solo, who has perhaps benefited from this in the past, this expectation of sweetness might now provide an additional challenge as she seeks to recover her reputation.


Mächtige Maus said...

Habladora...I'm so proud of you for venturing into the realm of sports!

Agincourt and I, of course, followed the Solo developments with intrigue and there were so many developments.

(1) She should never have been benched. It was one more of another idiotic move by a coach that needs to be fired. I'm not finding a whole lot of media coverage following that aspect of things.

(2) She should never had said anything during the tournament. I am all for an athlete (and therefore employee) having the courage to question an employer. However, doing so in public, during work (and that's when she did it since the had another match coming right up), and in such a negative fashion. Well, it was bad form. I'm not sure she will be able to recover from this. Certainly her team doubts her integrity now. It wasn't a classy way to handle the entire situation. It was valid to criticize. However, the timing was wrong and the words were petty. She did nothing to call attention to the fact that the coach is an idiot. She did wonders for calling attention to herself as a pout.

(3) I'm afraid I can't go along with acknowledging how the incident at least brought attention to the sport. If that is the only attention the sport can garner, then I'm not sure I want it.

At least, thankfully, I can't find this to be a hit against female athletes. I have an expectation of professionalism (not the same as an expectation of role model) from all athletes. I think she dropped the professionalism ball on this one.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, she did show a real lack of professionalism and class. Attacking other team members when you participate in a sport in which group cohesion is so crucial is also a bit daft. But, how long will Solo be punished for her lack of tact?

I am no expert in sports (I prefer to think of myself as the bookish one), so this is an honest question. Is there a similar case of a male athlete criticizing coach and teammates in public? It would be nice to know how other professional athletes have been punished in a similar situation.

Mächtige Maus said...

Well, Terrell Owens, got himself suspended for talking bad about his team to the media. So, there are ramifications for others as well. Of course, he is back playing again for ungodly amounts of money. That either means that there is "hope" for Solo (hee hee...that was funny to write) or it means that she is getting shafted. Only time will tell.

In comparison, Tiki Barber was wise enough to save most of his intense criticism until after retirement.

Here is a pro-Solo piece excellent piece that I think you will enjoy: