SoloMemoir

Solo: A Memoir of Hope, by Hope Solo with Ann Killion.


(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.

19 thoughts on “Solo: A Memoir of Hope, by Hope Solo with Ann Killion.

  1. Robyn

    still havent read it, but planning to get around to it when im done with masters research. im a fan of hope solo in all her brashness. undeniably the best female GK in the world. but a little fun fact for you, that post match report for the freedom was written by me 🙂 hahaha i was the media/PR intern under jenn brunson at the time and i wrote it and then afterwards when we saw hope solo’s tweet, we laughed a bit and were like “leave it”

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  2. Never happened

    I was at the famous Breakers game – my children are black and I am white so sometimes strangers say things to me about my kids that might not be said if they knew I was their parent. As a result I am very sensitive to this sort of thing. I was sitting one section away from the RipTide (which BTW has darker skinned members) and I heard NOTHING. I had always given Hope Solo the benefit of the doubt for lapses in judgment up to then (even through the Scurry debacle) as I believed she had been through many tough times and was still growing up. However, this seemed to me as an after the fact excuse for her poor sportsmanship by refusing to go out and meet the fans who were lined up. She told a lie and stuck to it. It is appalling she still is not only making an excuse but making herself out a hero in order to cover her fit of pique. Thank you for bringing this out again.

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  3. Fan

    Just because you never heard it doesn’t mean it never happened. Clearly some fans did, i remember tweets where fans said they left and were disgusted with the language and racism coupled with the fact people sent affidavits confirming it. Now whether it came from the riptide fans specifically is what some are questioning but there was definitely racist abuse heard that night.

    Secondly if you ask fans that attend games and training sessions, Hope is always one of the last to leave when signing for fans so your assumption doesn’t make sense.

    Anyway this is a very small part of her book, i enjoyed reading it and think there are many vaulable lessons one can take away from it.

    Thanks for the review 🙂

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    1. Kevin Parker Post author

      As the president of the Washington Freedom supporters’ group at the time and friends with some members of the Riptide, I followed the issue closely at the time and reviewed it again before I did this writeup. There were absolutely no tweets complaining about language or behavior at the match other than Hope’s, and the only affidavits came from people who knew her personally. As Breakers’ GM Andy Crossley put it at the time, “Fact: Solo’s post-game Twitter allegations were not independently corroborated by anyone in attendance who was not an acquaintance of Hope Solo.” I have found no evidence to contradict this statement. (You can find his very frank discussion of the incident at http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2012/08/17/august-4-2010-boston-breakers-vs-atlanta-beat/ ).

      That being said, you are right that Solo is generally very good about signing autographs for the fans.

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    2. cambridge_footie

      Wasn’t Hope’s point that racism was “impossible to ignore”. It didn’t happen. Not that she couldn’t have encountered a racist while in Boston (or anywhere else) but to balloon that (if it did happen) into some sort of organized racism by the fan-base that was condoned by the club was a despicable act.

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  4. Different Perspectives

    I have to agree with the comments from “Fan”. My main issue with the Boston situation is that just because you personally, or a fan, or a staff member, or a Riptide member did not hear something, does not mean it wasn’t said. If I go somewhere with 30 of my friends, there is no way I would be able to tell you for sure if they did or did not say something if we were all in different locations while at the place we all went to. Does that make sense? I can tell you what I think they would or would not say but if I was there but not where every one was at every moment, there is no way I could know for sure. I think the main issue is that it may not have been Riptide members who said the negative things, however it is possible that Hope believed these people to be Riptide members because they were sitting in the section or close to it. It was a game with lower attendance than normal so possible some non-Riptide members were sitting there or something. I think that is where the problem is, however if non-Riptide members were sitting in the Riptide section you can’t really be mad at Hope for saying she heard something from Riptide members, as she probably is not going to be able to tell if they are all real members or just sitting there for that game.

    I will also agree with “Fan” and say that Hope Solo is very fan friendly. She is probably one of the most if not the most fan friendly player on the USWNT. She goes out of her way to sign for fans, actually talk to them and is very engaging. Hope gets a lot of hate about a lot of things, but if you actually meet her and get to know her just a little bit, she is charismatic, charming, and personable, and this always translates over to her interactions with fans. I personally do not understand the criticism that Hope always gets, I think it is mainly from people that have never interacted with her, because I find her to be one of the friendliest and most personable, and real, players on the team.

    I also loved reading more about Hope’s personal and family background. Her grandparents sound like amazing people! It was nice to see what made her really be who she is today. I think a lot of people will be surprised at what an interesting and unique family she really does have, and I thought there were so many parts of the book that were inspirational. Her grandparents were pastors, and Hope grew up in their church, and her grandmother is actually her role model, and reading the book, you can definitely see why. I would strongly suggest to everyone to read this book especially if you want to see a different side of Hope and more of who she really is. I am glad you were able to read her book and review and share different views.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Parker Post author

      If people in the Riptide section had been making racist comments, then Riptide members would have heard it.

      Andy Crossley – then GM of the Breakers – did a thorough investigation of the incident, interviewing security personnel food service workers, volunteers, and season ticket holders. The worst statement he could find were some cries of “thug” and “convict” directed toward Kia McNeill after she committed a hard foul. Now, McNeill is black, but she was also the most penalized player in WPS’s short history. So it’s a stretch to call that racist.

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  5. Rob

    It kind of sounds like her ultra-competitiveness is both blessing and curse. She is probably the best female GK in the world (no doubt in her own opinion) and therefore sometimes blind to her own faults. It is always easier to blame refs, teammates, fans, whoever, to deflect attention away when the light is negative. To be fair, this happens often in the male sports media world. I find it ironic that the feminine term ‘Diva’ is primarily applied to Euro football strikers and American football WRs. High pressure positions that glaringly show when there is a lack of production.
    I guess the best thing you could say about her is at least she garners attention for a sport that is largely ignored by mainstream media outside of the Olympic games and WC. She certainly loves the spotlight, and it must be frustrating to be one of the best in the world at what you do and not sure if you will have a job the following season. Maybe she can take comfort in the fact that at least the MagicJack guy is gone…….

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  6. John

    I guess my first question is what was the point/motive for this post. Boredom seems a poor excuse to dredge up something that in the news world is old news. I agree w/ DP that this is a “she said, she said” issue. There is no way to confirm either side. If you were the fan who said these things or even witnessed it you would have reasons ranging from looking bad to being banned to civil/criminal court issues to consider. Furthermore, Kevin has been presenting himself as a member of the sports media, but everyone he defends he admits to having a personal relationship w/. Going forward it would be great to see him establish professional relationships w/ the staff/players he covers and stop pursuing the personal relationships he developed in the past. Too many of his posts read like the team’s press releases rather than reporting. Will be interesting to see what Kevin brings us this season. BTW Kevin, are you off to Algarve this year?

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    1. Kevin Parker Post author

      It’s not old news if it’s been freshly published. If Solo is going to bring it up again, then I’m going to rebut it again.

      As for the whole media/fan thing, I’m going to do what I feel comfortable with, by and large. At least I’m upfront about admitting when I have a personal relationship that might affect my objectivity. (And it’s hard in this niche not to develop personal relationships.)

      No Algarve for me this year, so I’m glad I should be able to watch it online.

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  7. dav

    Following the women’s game through the years, I originally felt sympathetic towards Hope as a result of the World Cup fallout. A goalkeeper needs to have self confidence and believe in her abilities. Hope definitely does. Unfortunately, through her actions of the last 3-5 years, my opinion has changed and reading her book affirmed many of my opinions. I now believe Hope has a victim complex, is self-absorbed and will strike out at anyone who she believes has wronged her or her teammates. Examples: Brandi Chastain conflict, accusations of people hitting her, which she contradicted when she said “I’ve never been hit in my life.” while defending her husband this last fall.

    My daughter, now a teenager, has also been a big fan of Hope’s. While she is still a fan, her view on Hope has changed through the years. Today, she admires her athletic skills and drive, but as a person does not see a role model. I appreciate the maturity of my daughter.

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  8. VaFan

    In a way, this thread shows how far women’s sports, especially soccer, has come in recent years. Look how many people have posted differing views of one female soccer goalkeeper.
    For what it’s worth, I tend to be a bit less critical of Hope than a lot of folks. This is not to defend every lapse of judgement, but “child(hood) is father to the man” seems to apply, at least in part.

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  9. sec

    There is a lot of emotional honesty in this book. A lot of personal thoughts and reactions and emotions are revealed here. If Hope felt wronged or upset at someone’s actions (and through age 18, she certainly had a lot of be upset about), she never forgot about it, and now those events/recollections are laid bare in black and white. There is a great deal of “score settling” in the pages of this book.

    Having said that, the person who is revealed is not always sympathetic. Emotional honesty — expressing one’s true thoughts and feelings, as Hope does here — does not mean that Hope is above pettiness, or has ever had a moral reckoning with her own actions and thoughts. I’m not sure she’s even capable of seeing the world through another person’s eyes, of judging herself honestly. I’m not sure she’s a forgiving person. The best memoirs, in my view, are filled with self-assessment and self-judgment, and there’s none of that here. It is Hope Solo against the world, and the world is dead wrong (end of story).

    For those interested in soccer-related stuff, here are a few interesting tidbits:

    1. In late 2011, Pia Sundhage told Solo she would be off the Olympic team if she published this memoir prior to the Olympics. Sundhage said it would be a distraction to the team and coaches. I have criticized a lot of her tactical decisions, but Pia was 100% correct and I give her a ton of credit for laying down the law with such a popular and talented player as Solo.

    2. A year in Goteborg, shortly after the US pro league (WUSA) folded, rejuvenated Solo’s soccer skills, and improved her personal outlook and love of the game. (Sounds remarkably similar to the Christen Press story).

    3. Shocking, but true: U.S. goalkeeper coach Paul Rogers found all sorts of technical deficiencies in Solo when he first began working with her. (This is perhaps one of the very few instances in the book where Solo accepts criticism of herself in any fashion). This makes me question the quality of goalkeeping instruction in the YNTs and the highest levels in the US, if Solo could have gone that long in her career before learning so many technical flaws in her game.

    4. She reveals the background of her decision to attend U of Washington, rather than UVa or other schools.

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    1. dav

      sec – your 3rd bullet is spot on. As a former goalkeeper and the father of a female goalkeeper (disclosure: I was hoping she would prefer playing on the field.), the quality of goalkeeping training at the club level is spotty at best and more often, non-existent. Most youth coaches, who never played the position, don’t know what to do with goalkeepers during practice besides throwing them in the goal and having other players take shots at them or sending them off to the side to work by themselves or with very little direction. Hopefully, one US Soccer and the coaches will recognize that goalies need coaching too and work with on improving the program.

      Reply
  10. Wear Nikes Drink Gatorade

    I don’t know why that ancedote about Hamm was “astonishing”; Mia was well known for her on-the-field temper (see Gary Smith, “The Secret Life of Mia Hamm” from September 22, 2003). Whether or not it happened exactly like Solo said, it seems believable. Still, Hamm is a great person.*
    *Interesting side note from the article: She was voted the fourth most-admired athlete in America at one point. The three ahead of her? Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and Lance Armstrong.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Parker Post author

      The astonishing part is not Mia Hamm’s foul mouth – I was in the stadium at a Freedom match when she dropped the F-bomb during a televised match while bawling out a linesman – but that Hope Solo got bawled out for her poor service when she’s now considered to have the best legs of any goalkeeper in history.

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      1. cow pasture alum

        I think Hamm’s comment was less about Solo’s legs, which were among the best (at least in the sense of strongest) around even then, but about what was going in her head; i.e., her poor judgment. Drop-kicked balls are to be preferred, in that they are generally easier for one’s teammates to field than are punted balls. I think that is the point Hamm was trying to make.

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        1. Kevin Parker Post author

          Well, Hope Solo’s response in the next paragraph was, “If I was going to play at that level, I couldn’t rely every time on my booming punt – I needed to perfect a lower-trajectory dropkick.”

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  11. cambridge_footie

    Thanks Kevin. I am a fan of Solo the player and I too supported her in 2007 and still believe she was treated very poorly. I find her a little tedious so I won’t be reading the book but I am glad to hear it sheds some light on what makes her tick.

    Reply

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