(I actually read this last fall, but right before the news about the NWSL started getting hot and heavy. So I decided to hold off publishing it. Now that we’re in a bit of a preseason lull, I figured I’d go ahead and share it.)
First off, if you’re interested in this autobiography, make sure you don’t do what I did at first and end up requesting Hope Solo: My Story, which is the “young reader’s edition”, i.e., it has all the really juicy parts taken out. The prologue to that one is only two paragraphs long (ending in “Hope.” rather than going on to spend a couple of pages on the 2007 incident.) And the story of her mother getting back at the neighbors by putting up the fence they insisted on but putting a big yellow smiley face on it ends with “The smiley face wasn’t about happiness but a big protest against our neighbors.” instead of the original’s “The smiley face wasn’t a reflection of internal happiness. It was a big ‘f*** you’ to our neighbors.” [Asterisks mine.]
Second, let me be clear that I’m no fan of Hope Solo’s: she’s gone out of her way to insult and impugn friends of mine. I was actually mostly on her side back in 2007 (my personal opinion is that everything she said was absolutely true; the only problem was that she was the last person who should have been saying them), but since then she’s made several offensive statements.
That being said, this very frank autobiography went a long way toward increasing my sympathy for her. She had a tough life early: her father was a petty crook and con man who drifted in and out of her life – her mother got pregnant when she visited him in prison – and she had a feisty, conflicted relationship with the remaining relatives close to her like her mother and brother. Soccer was an escape and one she was very good at – though as a goal-scoring forward, not as the goalkeeper she eventually became.
She covers both the personal and career stuff through the years as the two weave around one another.
One definite weakness is that it almost always seems that she’s in the right and everyone else is in the wrong, from most of her personal situations to her time on the WUSA Philadelphia Charge, where she’s upset that head coach Mark Krikorian favors Melissa Moore in goal over her even though (in her opinion) she’s the better choice.
Not surprisingly, this continues in the two incidents I truly fault her for. In August of 2010 she went out on Twitter and accused members of the Breakers supporters group Riptide of making racist remarks during a match. In her words here, “The heckling became incredibly racist…. With only a couple thousand people in attendance, the jeers echoed around the stadium and were impossible to ignore.” She states later “But when a handful of Boston fans wrote letters to the team saying that they had to walk out of the game with their children because the language and behavior was so inappropriate, an apology was sent to our team.”
Pretty much none of this is true. Boston Breakers management investigated the complaint and could find absolutely no one in the stadium to corroborate it, neither fans nor vendors nor team staffers. They apologized only in order to provide closure on the incident.
A few weeks later, she went off again. As she describes it, “A few weeks later, we were playing the Washington Freedom. Both teams needed a win to get in the playoffs. It was the craziest officiating I’d ever seen: calls were changed for no reason and goals disallowed. We lost, 1-0, a result gifted to Washington by the center ref.” She went on to Twitter again to complain. She ends up being heavily fined and complains in the book about that as well, not bothering to mention that she’d been complaining on Twitter about the league and officials on several occasions beforehand and getting away with it.
What she doesn’t mention is that she also criticized a Freedom staffer on Twitter for her allegedly biased match report on the Freedom website: “Nice spin on the game report brunson. The little old 7th place team from atlanta ran the show last night. was your head dizzy watching.” “Brunson” is Jennifer Brunson, the Freedom’s PR Manager at the time and a friend of mine. This was rather classless, particularly since Jen would have gotten into trouble had she tried to rebut.
As for the match itself, I was there, and it was clear to me why the Beat’s goal had been disallowed – Abby Wambach had been fouled before the ball was shot into the net. The center ref, incidentally, was Kari Seitz, and you’re not going to find a better referee for women’s soccer. Lastly, it’s false that “both teams needed a win to get in the playoffs.” Atlanta, as Hope herself noted at the time, was mired in seventh place and long-eliminated. And the Freedom would have been in the playoffs regardless of the result of the match as the team competing with them for the last playoff spot, Sky Blue, lost that evening.
On the other hand, there are times when she’s refreshingly frank. She relates the now seemingly astonishing story of Mia Hamm bawling her out for her poor service: “Do you want me to f***ing head the ball? Then you need to f***ing learn how to drop-kick it.” [Asterisks mine again.]
Later on she gets a new goalkeeper coach – Paul Rogers – who tells her she – and Nicole Barnhart – both suck as goalkeepers and shows them film to prove it. “Barnie and I could see all our faults, right there on film. It wasn’t pleasant. Wow! I thought. We really do suck.”
(Another weakness of the book – though not one Hope should be blamed for – is the lack of an index. I had to find the previous two anecdotes by leafing through the pages until I spotted them.)
So all in all it may be somewhat self-serving, though not as much as you might expect. And despite its weaknesses, it’s a frank, raw, refreshing insight into the life and career of one of the current icons of women’s sports. If you’re a fan of such sports, you should read it.