I started in competitive soccer when I was 6 years old and played until I was about 17, “retiring” after having two knee surgeries and countless broken bones.
I’ve been a loyal US soccer fan since I started kicking the ball, wearing a Mia Hamm number nine jersey when the ’99 team won against China. Attending dozens of Chicago Fire soccer games at Soldier Field, North Central College stadium during the construction of their new stadium, and finally, at Toyota Field. I was lucky enough to attend the 2003 Women’s World Cup in California, watching some of the greats play their last matches.
After the 2003 World Cup, a new set of legs hit the pitch in 2007. I was sad to see that eras were ending, especially some of my favorite players, but excited to get to know these new ladies.
Abby Wambach made herself known to the world, scoring 6 goals in the tournament, and Heather O’Reilly showed that she was a danger, flying down the flanks of the field & setting up beautiful plays. Then, there was Hope Solo.
I hold a soft spot for goalkeeper Briana Scurry in my heart. She was fearless. She was strong. She was a leader. She was a teammate. Scurry took a back seat to Solo in the first few matches of the ’07 Cup. Then, in the semifinal game against Brazil, the lineup was changed. Solo was out, Scurry was in.
To put it briefly: the entire team left their “A-game” in the locker room, as well as Shannon Boxx, who was ejected after two yellow cards in the first half, and the Americans fell to Brazilians 4-0.
The press rushed the field, surrounding the team for comments…and Solo didn’t hold back.
It was at this moment that any budding affection I had for her, died. This is also the first, public moment that we see who Solo really is – selfish, arrogant, a self-proclaimed victim. She blasted the coaches’ decision, Scurry’s performance, and declared if she were in the net, then the red, white, and blue would be the victors, not gold and green.
There was fallout. Solo was pulled from the third place game against Norway by the entire team, and they would go on to win 4-1.
Solo would eventually make her way back into the ladies’ good graces, and stay quiet…for a little bit.
Solo comes from a rough, unstable family background. Perhaps that is why she has a sour attitude. Or why she goes on the attack when she feels like her job is in jeopardy – it’s the only good thing in her life.
But, that doesn’t excuse what she has (allegedly) done – to her teammates, to her family and to the little girls looking up to the team, all over the country.
This woman has gotten so many chances, so many outs, so many excuses to justify her bad behavior. Whether it’s trash talking a teammate, excessive drinking, or inflecting physical/mental/emotional pain on others her stellar performance on the field is what excuses her from retribution.
By allowing this woman to represent her country, the organization is telling young girls that being a talented performer will help bad behavior “blow over” because your talents are more important than your character.
To me, winning is not more important than the team’s mental health, and getting Solo the break she not only deserves but needs from the game to help her improve her heart & soul.
The past year’s NFL scandals inspired discussions for weeks about holding players accountable for indecent acts that don’t even necessarily occur on the field. So why aren’t we holding Solo as accountable? Is it because she’s a woman? Is it because she’s so well regarded her in sport? Is it because if we punish her, the hope for the growth of soccer in America will be stunted?
I know at least for me, Hope Solo is not the answer to women’s soccer and its growth in America…Hope is the sport’s despair.