Being Hope Solo: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Some people think I’m bonkers/

But I think I’m just free/

Man, I’m livin’ my life/

Nothing’ crazy about me

 

Who would have thought Dizzee Rascal would have the inside line on the Hope Solo/Brandi Chastain flap? That verse was featured in a performance that provided one of the many jolts in Danny Boyle’s electrifying Opening Ceremony last Friday.

Another stirring moment – one that, again, occurred off the field of play – would soon follow.

By now it would be pointless to rehash the controversy Solo sparked with her twitter comments regarding Chastain’s on-air commentary (and I swear, this will be the first and final word on this). If you’re legitimately in the dark, just run the search term ‘Hope Solo’ through Google News.

To those familiar with Solo’s ways, Saturday’s rant was just the latest in a lengthy line of twitter tirades. Really, it’s just Hope being Hope. For all of Solo’s virtues in goal (and there are many), she is prone to – in the words of Richard Farley – a St. Helenic explosion once every 12-18 months.

Solo has a long history of this kind of thing. She’s a repeat offender, if you will.

Even the controversy du jour has an element of déjà vu. Solo went public with similarly stinging criticism of Brandi’s commentary in January of this year during the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament.

The above tweet can no longer be found on her twitter timeline, but this Retweet of her former Atlanta Beat James Galanis remains:

The difference between now and then? Time and place.

As many have pointed out, Solo’s most recent diatribe came at a peculiar time. The Olympics are, you know, the Olympics. It’s one of the few events that can seize the world’s attention for 17 days. The Games still offer a sense of widely-accessible escapism that’s a rarity in today’s increasingly insulated world.

Audiences millions strong are seduced by spellbinding narratives on offer. And a little drama doesn’t hurt.

It’s no surprise a heated – albeit one-sided – dispute between two widely-recognized female athletes has gotten so much play. Unlike in January, the whole world is watching.

The U.S. mainstream (sports) media has opined on it at length; from Julie Foudy to Sally Jenkins to Mike Greenberg to Slate’s Stefan Fatsis. It what the first question on everyone’s lips when Solo faced the media at Old Trafford on Monday (also her birthday) ahead of the USWNT’s final group stage match against North Korea.

Granted, it’s got people talking about women’s soccer, which might be a victory in itself in some perverse way. The old ‘no news is bad news’ trope strikes again?

 

It’s a question that didn’t have to be raised during last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will be remembered for a myriad of meaningful moments, but thankfully, a Hope Solo outburst is not among them.

As you may remember, Solo’s twitter account had been temporarily silenced during the run-up to the tournament. Not deleted, mind you, but every one of its tweets had been expunged, which was even more bizarre.

This came on the heels of one of Solo’s more inflammatory harangues. On May 13, 2011, her club magicJack had been docked a point for failing to comply with several of Women’s Professional Soccer’s standards.

The deduction led to this conspiracy theory-tinged reaction:


Who was the culprit for the wipeout? WPS was quick to remove its name from the suspect list with this statement:

WPS has no editorial control over individual Twitter pages and were not involved in the recent purge.

Solo eventually returned to twitter during the U.S.’s unforgettable run through the World Cup, but her tweets were considerably more subdued. Was this a change in tack or simply a lack of provocation? If it was for the former, it didn’t last long.

 

Patterns have taken form in these repeated incidents. Digging deep into the superstar goalkeeper’s psyche will almost certainly spur an infamous ‘YOU DON’T KNOW ME’ reaction, but there are familiar traits in each of these cases; ones that might help make sense of seemingly senseless barbs.

 

First off, while Solo’s rants (quickly running out of synonyms here) might be incendiary, they’re also kind of… altruistic. Stay with me for a moment.

Depending on what side of the argument you fall on, beneath all the fire and brimstone, there’s an undercurrent of unwavering loyalty. It’s her way of rushing to the aid of others. Her gibes are directed at those who – in her mind – inflict harm on those in her corner.

How would you catalog Solo’s outbursts? Are they unrestrained attacks or a form of defensive posturing?

There’s almost always a victim that’s been wronged (‘wronged’ being a subjective term here). A victim that’s worth coming to bat for because no one us will. They’re either:

A.)   A teammate (Rachel Buehler, allegedly/Brandi Chastain; a Saint Louis Athletic player an Atlanta Beat player/the Riptide; Carli Lloyd/a fan; Kia McNeill/WPS)

B.)    Her team – (magicJack/WPS; the USWNT/Brandi Chastain)

C.)    Herself – (Greg Ryan; the Dancing With the Stars judges; haters)

That kind of siege mentality is probably something desired in a teammate, especially one who doesn’t win you games, but saves them. She’s pretty much the one player quite literally has the team’s back. So, natural reaction? Perhaps.

An ‘us. v. them’ mentality is omnipresent, as in this tweet directed at a fan who wasn’t particularly high on Carli Lloyd:

And as Grant Wahl illuminated in his piece four years ago, Carli Lloyd was the only player in the USWNT camp who prevented Solo from being completely ostracized from the national team camp following the 2007 World Cup Quarterfinal snub.

Solo’s ardent defenses might be unsolicited, but that doesn’t stop her. And that brings us neatly to the second point.

 

Her reactions both on the field and off it are impulsive. What makes Hope Solo such an outstanding goalkeeper? Her instantaneous reaction times that would only be hindered by any kind of thought process. They’re instinctual and visceral. She just does it.

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Of course, that irrepressible urge to react isn’t only contained to the field.

Her actions suggest she is captive to the moment. She displays a disregard for long-term consequences that might result from her actions. There doesn’t seem to be any pre-meditation or calculation either. There’s merely provocation and a colossal reaction.

She’s also been known to stand her ground. To her, the soliloquies she spouts off are grounded in truth. They adhere to her world view, so why back down?

There was no hint of a walkback from her comments about Chastain; comments that many have actually concurred with, even if the context was less than ideal. On the Chastain flap:

She didn’t apologize or express regret, and she answered only one question about the matter, declining to address, among other things, whether a social media rant in the middle of the Olympics was the proper time and means to convey her feelings about broadcasters.

And although she undoubtedly manages to do both, courting controversy and rousing rabble isn’t really what she’s about. To her, at least. As Jeff Carlisle wrote:

Solo views herself through a much different lens and, not surprisingly, it is significantly at odds with her public image. She insists she is more of an introvert who is content to spend quiet time with family or reading a book.

Solo’s latest flare-up has only made her fans and detractors alike more entrenched in their opinions of her. She’ll remain the only women’s soccer player in the world capable of landing the covers of both Vogue and Newsweek, as well as the most complicated. As Fake Sigi writes,

Hope Solo has constructed her public persona as such that any and all revelations in the article will simply not reflect poorly on her.

To some, at least. The same qualities that will endear her to some will only repel her to others. Hope is Hope, plain and simple. The seemingly unhinged rants and the seemingly impossible saves – it’s all part of the package.

You get the impression she wouldn’t stop even if she could.

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28 thoughts on “Being Hope Solo: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

  1. Laura

    It’s difficult for me to find Solo’s actions honorable or admirable when it’s wrapped up in so much self-righteousness. Ultimately her choice to act out in the way she does (or inability or lack of desire to control her impulsiveness) brings the (much-wanted) attention to her, not to whatever issue is on her mind. Her message gets lost in her bluster.

    Stand up for your team, yes. Always. But do it in a way that makes it about the team, not about you.

    Reply
    1. Ray Curren

      Which led to the Riptide changing the YSA chant to “You lie, Hope” at the game I went to in New Britain later that season. Which the Beat won, actually.

      Reply
  2. Diane

    None of us can really know what goes on in Hope’s mind, but this is the best analysis of what it might be, and why.

    The saddest part to me is that the media, in all it’s forms, never really address the issue, they make it about Hope. If a player with less of a media presence made the same comments, the issue would have just been a blip in a big Olympic news day. And still no one has addressed the issue of Chastain’s overly negative, uninspiring ‘analysis’. The media, in their zeal to hype the ‘Hope as troublemaker’ angle, have taken Chastain’s remarks out of the context of her overall analysis. While in themselves they may seem mild, when considered as a whole her commentary was very negative and contributed nothing to the enjoyment or education of the fans, since many simply mute her commentary. The media have effectively done what they are skewering Hope for, circle the wagons around one of their own.

    Hope is a great player who isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve for her team and will fiercely defend a perceived slight to a teammate, giving you her opinion, in public, for free.
    Brandi was a great player who continues to contribute to the game off the field, but brings nothing to it with her overly dismal, negative, one-sided analysis.. and that was the point all along.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Parker

      “And still no one has addressed the issue of Chastain’s overly negative, uninspiring ‘analysis’. ”

      Well, that’s part of the problem with someone like Hope Solo making these comments. Myriads of fans have said what you said, but when Hope says something, it becomes all about Hope instead of about the issue. The same thing happened in 2007: just about everyone knew that Ryan was an idiot for starting Scurry ahead of Solo, but when Hope spoke out, it became all about whether she should have spoken out instead of whether she was right.

      Her remarks repeatedly have pretty much the opposite effect of her intentions (at least her obvious intentions – maybe she really does want to be the object of controversy on a regular basis).

      Reply
      1. @coachclifford

        I am not a Hope apologist – but I am here. Hope isn’t the problem in Chastain’s presence in the booth flying under the radar of much needed criticism – real criticism, she’s reacting to the fact that Chastain gets a pass. And if Hope didn’t, then intelligent or novice viewers at home would be left without a voice, watching the game on very low or no audio at all.

        Chastain doesn’t sound like a soccer mind that I’d want to hand my club team over to – and I know she must be better than that. Has she had any professional media training? Or is she who she is and how she prepares is entirely up to her? Pardon my French – she sucks. Accomplished a player and perhaps a great soccer mind – no one would know it!

        Bravo for Hope calling out what is an abomination – Chastain being in that booth (for one reason – cachet…perceived that is).

        Jenna’s AWK piece is the only place that I’ve read an appropriate delineation of these separate stories: 1. Hope being Hope, regardless of the content from one rant to the next; it is an athlete dynamic that is worthy of examination – TO, Manny Ramirez and other greats (athletes, egos yes); and 2. Chastain, regardless of Hope chiming in, is a story – and so is the fact that no one of equal prominence (save Hope) calls her out; and lastly, 3. There have been notables chiming in, just not on Chastain – Foudy and Jenkins failed in delivering guts or substance. Foudy’s comments offended me – and I’m a guy! I inferred her point to mean, “hey, they’re just women, they should be happy to be on TV at all, so what if Chastain is the color commentator.” Sorry JF – NOT good enough. Especially not in a post-2011 WWC world. Hire the best, not the more infamous. And Jenkins basically doesn’t give Hope a good score on style points and therefore can’t bring herself to asking the separate and objective question that Hope is begging her to ask; instead it’s more like Jenkins is saying “well Hope, if you weren’t such a jerk, then I would consider what you have to say. But since you can’t behave, I will have to assume that your point of view is not only invalid, but wrong – so Chastain must be worthy of being in that booth.”

        In THIS instance – Hope is actually doing more to help the women’s game, where Jenkins and Foudy hurt. Hope’s frustration, my guess, is that so long as those prominent and seemingly credible views persist, so will a ceiling on the women’s game.

        I share that view.

        Reply
    2. cambridge_footie

      We don’t address the Chastain issue because she is no better or worse than most of the rest of the announcers. Conversely, Foudy was not critcal enough. There is no winning. Solo is holding Chastain to another standard because she was a USWNT player. Its completely personal, clearly unprofessional and patently illogical.

      Chastain needs to be more constructive – so I am going to personally attack you. Pot/Kettle much?
      Chastain needs to “get more educated” – She clearly knows the game and has a record (and World Cup medal) to back it up.
      Solo is just defending her teamates – No one really cares what Chastain says. I barely remember the Buehler comment. But thanks to Solo millions more people know Buehler had a poor game. Seriously Hope… stop “helping”.

      Solo needs to pick up a phone next time she has an issue with someone and spare us this little twitter window into her paranoia.

      Reply
  3. Wear Nikes Drink Gatorade

    @Jenna: Her tweet from January to Brandi is still on her timeline:
    http://twitter.com/hopesolo/status/160607390570528768

    A major part of this whole affair that is obnoxious is the media’s response to it. To wit: Hope criticizes Brandi; sports media jumps on story, defends one of its own (and one of their favorites as a player), in the process lecturing how you’re supposed to treat them; the media, hearing its own echo, declares it to be a major distraction, lack of knowledge of or access to National Team members be damned. If she had tweeted that the head of the Riptide likes to have sex with pigs or something of that sort, at best it would receive a mention on Deadspin.

    Reply
      1. Wear Nikes Drink Gatorade

        Click on the “All” tweets section (it is automatically set at “No Replies”).
        And I didn’t mean anything personal in my comment -I thought it was a great column. It just frustrating that this incidient has dominated the news from the tournament for the National Team so far, not to mention having various media personalities opine when they couldn’t care less about the sport in general.

        Reply
        1. Jenna Pel Post author

          Oh, no worries, no feelings were hurt in the reading of your comment. Apologies if you detected a snippy tone. And thanks for the directions to the “All” tweets… indeed, there it is.

          And it is frustrating that this is what alerts people (and journalists) to the USWNT. It just gives people the excuse to roll out the same, tired arguments on a familiar topic without ever really elevating the conversation.

          Reply
  4. Sally Wilson

    A far more thoughtful overview than the others! Kudos to you for seeing the true Solo. I am a fan that has complained about Chastain’s negative commentary since January so much too the point that I put the TV on mute. However, my complaints fall on deaf ears so I’m thankful that Solo is willing to be the voice that is heard. Looking forward to a more positive game this morning.

    Reply
  5. Anna

    I agree with you that all of these outbursts are genuine, spur-of-the-moment gut reactions from Solo. I’ve seen some cynical suggestions that she’s purposely drumming up publicity ahead of her book release, but I think there’s plenty of evidence (much in this article) to also support the idea that Solo really just doesn’t have a filter, is fiercely loyal to her friends, and will snap at enemies without thinking.

    That being said, someone drop her blackberry in a bucket of water until the Olympics are over.

    Reply
  6. Soccerpop13

    I appreciate your effort to explain the Solo psyche to us. I’m willing to give her a bit more benefit of the doubt in light of your commentary, but she definitely needs to put down her phone until after the tournament – or this definitely is “look at me” behavior of the Madonna school rather than something of a nobler variety.

    For my two cents, Chastain is a sports analyst, not a cheerleader. She is simply doing her job and doing so reasonably well. Her specific criticisms of Buehler – the ones that apparently provoked the Solo retorts – are entirely appropriate, both in tone and content. It completely eludes me how a starting center back for the US Women’s National Team has no capacity to play possession-oriented soccer. That basic skill set or lack thereof is not a new found requirement of the modern game, as Hope suggests we should believe.

    Go USWNT!

    Reply
  7. Meg Linehan

    Thanks for writing the first article on this I could actually finish without closing it in frustration. I like a lot of your points. I do think it’s important to keep Hope in the context of being a female player – especially in terms of the reaction to “Hope being Hope” usually. Some of it comes from her personality and stature with the media, but I have to wonder what would happen if a male player of similar popularity did the exact same thing, what would happen. (I know that if you cruised comments on the internet, you wouldn’t see an endless stream of comments calling him a bitch, that’s for sure.)

    Reply
    1. Wear Nikes Drink Gatorade

      I don’t know why, but this old story came to mind over this controversy:
      “ESPN commentator Tom Jackson has seen — and heard — Belichick’s edginess. After the Pats released their popular safety, Lawyer Milloy… Milloy helped the Buffalo Bills beat New England in the season opener, 31-0, Jackson put the onus on Belichick. “Let me say this clearly,” Jackson intoned on ESPN that night. “They hate their coach.”
      The Patriots players denied it, and recovered from the defeat to go 14-2 in the regular season and beat Carolina in the Super Bowl… when Jackson attempted to shake Belichick’s hand before conducting a post-game interview, Belichick, still miffed that Jackson hadn’t apologized, refused the handshake and crudely told him to attempt something unprintable and anatomically impossible. Chris Berman conducted the interview.”
      Source: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/web/COM1053493/index.htm
      The Patriots are notorious for finding slights (real or imagined) and using it as motivation (and their players and head coach will make mention of it in the media from time to time, just less bombastically than Hope). This attitude seems to receive a lot of praise from writers, pundits, and a large number of fans as something to be emulated. It is safe to say that their is a difference in treatment in this regard.

      Reply
    2. @coachclifford

      I think male players are bombastic on a constant basis. I don’t think this would be viewed at all the same way – meaning Hope gets marginalized by her conduct (acting like a guy would, instead of a “lady”? I wonder). I think replacing the players with the other gender and it’s complete much ado about nothing.

      Reply
  8. Rachel

    “Her reactions both on the field and off it are impulsive. What makes Hope Solo such an outstanding goalkeeper? Her instantaneous reaction times that would only be hindered by any kind of thought process…”

    Love it. What this brings to mind for me, apart from the specifics of this incident, is a paradox of sport itself — that the qualities we value and reward on the field are often not what we praise in other contexts. What we love about Hope as our starting goalkeeper is simultaneously what gets her in trouble off the field. There has been a lot of debate around this idea when it comes to men’s high-level sport, but this is the first time I’ve considered it as applied to the women’s game…

    Really interesting article! 🙂

    Reply
  9. Tim

    How many meetings with consultants, agents, sponsors, seminar moderators, team sponsored media experts, etc. has Solo sat through in her pro career? She knew exactly what she was doing. There is an old saying, if it’s the difference between bad news and no news, take bad news, just don’t misspell my name. The woman has a book for sale. Look at all the free recognition she gets for her comments. Follow the money and you’ll find that she is working closely with a publisher’s handler.

    Reply
  10. cambridge_footie

    Just as well Solo isn’t a friend of Fernando Torres. She wouldn’t have fingers left to tweet his defense after want announcers said about him last year. This is juvenile. Buehler is a big girl, she can look after herself.

    Reply
  11. D

    Jenna – Kudos for putting the “story” in a different. Personally, I think Brandi does a good job commenting and has rightfully pointed out the US defense needs to improve. Watching with an objective eye over the last 3 years, there have been multiple shaky moments for the back 4 plus Ms. Solo. Does this make me less of a fan? No. It just means I recognize there is room for improvement as does Ms. Chastain. And that is a characteristic that would make me love to have Brandi as a coach of my daughter’s club team.

    Reply
  12. john

    Great comments everyone! It is sad that US media don’t have enough familiarity (and perhaps no one qualified is auditioning) w/ which women players can make insightful comments. Therefore they are forced to go w/ name recognition. Jenkins and Foudy are just defending their professional colleague. Of course if you’re from the 99er era just use the word “personality” and all will be well. Might I point out that Chastain knows a thing or two about bad giveaways. She did it on many occassions so perhaps she is applying her vast experience to her commentary. Let us all pull, pray, cheer f/ Hope to learn more effective ways to be supportive (assuming that is her goal). F/ me there is disappointment that Hope’s learning curve re: tweets is shallow. Best statement this Olympic team can make is to realize its potential. It has more technical and tactical players then the great 99 team. I’ve said it before and I repeat that they can thrash the competition in London if they truly believe.

    Reply
  13. Daboo

    I have watched hope for alot of years…. she has lied to me and the whole team and her coaches and fans. I just wish she would shut up and go away… everyone is right, she is actually starting to look like a man. your 15 min of fame is up hope… go away

    Reply
  14. Marcus

    I find it odd, a little sexist how we hate or strongly dislike Hope Solo expressing how she feels, especially on the Chastain comments which I completely agree with (she’s awful in the booth) but we praise people like Kobe Bryant and others because “You know what you’re going to get with Kobe, he speaks his mind, he’s honest”. Fans cant ask for honesty from athletes, and then criticize when they are honest. Hope Solo from what I’ve heard, from my vantage point is a team player, emotional, expressive, honest, and great for the sport. The media usually only pays attention to this team during a negative; bad calls vs Brasil in quarter final match, did they choke vs Japan, Pia celebrating after the 10 goal in Olympic qualifying, and Solo’s comments. Hope Solo gets attention, I dont think she strives for it, but her and this team are extremely honest especially in self evaluation. What more can you ask for?

    Reply
  15. Brent

    The coach that benched her in favor of Scurry was stupid. It made no sense whatsoever to bench the best goalie on the team. I applaud Hope for standing up for the truth. She would have given the team a better chance of winning.

    I’ve seen a lot of stupid coaching in my life and I find it refreshing that a player took a stand for what everybody knows is the truth; she was the best option.

    Reply

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