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:
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.
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.