Hope Solo is the antihero women's soccer needs.
She's forthcoming, if not brash. She's badass. She isn't afraid to market herself as one of the faces of women's soccer in America, as her appearance in ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue or her appearance on "Dancing with the Stars" made apparent.
And now, she has a book.
SOLO: A Memoir of Hope was released today and, as ESPN writes, documents the full gamut of her life:
Solo, who was born in 1981 after her mother became pregnant during a conjugal visit with Solo's father in prison, writes about what she calls years of her "erratic, self-destructive behavior," about the death of her father two months before the 2007 World Cup and, most pointedly, about her subsequent benching by U.S. coach Greg Ryan before the 2007 World Cup match against Brazil, and the way she felt her teammates and coaches treated her in the aftermath.
According to ESPN, an epilogue written during the 2012 Olympics notes that U.S. coach Pia Sundhage told Solo she wouldn't play her if the book was released before the London Games. I guess that's one way to limit distractions.
The thing about Solo is that, while I don't always agree with what she is saying, I always appreciate her honesty.
Do I think she should have spoken out and claimed she would have made all the saves missed by U.S. veteran Brianna Scurry in a 4-0 semifinal loss to Brazil at the 2007 World Cup? No, I don't.
That made her teammates—namely Scurry—look really bad. Her issue was always with Greg Ryan. She should have said something along the lines of the following:
I disagree with the decision because I'm a competitor, and I always want to be on the pitch, helping my team. That said, I'm not the coach and I'll support the ladies whether in front of the goal or on the bench.
But that wouldn't really be Solo's style, huh?
It's her honesty, the emotions she wears on her sleeve and, of course, her talent in goal that make her likable. Yes, she could be more diplomatic at times, but I'd rather her be strong and occasionally wrong than soft and polite.
I like my athletes with some piss and vinegar—it gives them an edge.
Every good television drama these days has an antihero. The Wire was full of them. So too was Lost, and all of the other good ones in between. (Yes, that's my spectrum for quality television dramas—The Wire at the top and Lost as the last one in.)
Women's sports are no different. The ladies on the U.S. women's soccer team in particular are ambassadors for female athletes in this country, meaning they need to fill all of the roles we look for in athletics:
- The NEXT BIG THING: Alex Morgan
- The Veteran Who Still Has It: Abby Wambach
- The Scrappy, Gritty Leader With Tons of Heart: Megan Rapinoe
- The Championship Hero No One Saw Coming: Carli Lloyd
- The Antihero: Hope Solo
For years, Kobe Bryant was the antihero, respected for his game but despised for his brash attitude. And guess what?
Kobe moved the needle. Kobe made everyone care a little bit more. He brought a level of intensity and realism to the game, made you passionately care, either about him or about why you didn't like him one bit.
Solo seems to have that same ability. She has a way of finding herself in the headlines, and it's good for the sport rather than detrimental, because at the end of the day she comes up clutch, like she did when she repeatedly stoned Japan in the gold-medal game and preserved the win for the United States.
Hope Solo's book will almost assuredly be very interesting. It will likely show the drama behind the scenes with the women's national team, which is a nice contrast to the goofy music videos this current iteration of the team has become known for.
People like drama. They secretly crave honesty and a look behind the veil. We've enjoyed the Olympic triumph of this team, but we'll enjoy a look back on the contentious moments of the team's past, too.
At the end of a day, we love an antihero. The complexity of that character is relatable. We're all good, we're all bad, often we're both at the same time. It's...messy.
We don't always agree with Hope Solo, but on some level, we all get her.
And on every level, women's sports need her.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are gold like the Team USA women.