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4.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Look at Our Women's Soccer Heroes, August 14, 2012
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This review is from: Solo: A Memoir of Hope (Kindle Edition)
It's rare to get insight into the dynamics of a team that failed as spectacularly as the 2007 U.S. Women's World Cup team. It's even rarer to learn how a program rights itself like the U.S. did in winning the 2008 Olympic gold medal and beyond. Such dramatic turnarounds don't happen often, and even less often do we get the inside story that Hope Solo tells here. The honest details behind Solo's relationships with her coaches and teammates during this turnaround are the most rewarding part of her autobiography. While I was touched reading about Solo's difficult relationship with her father in her own words, Solo told much of this story to the press already. Solo reveals a lot about her personal life, and many women in their 20s will relate to her boy troubles. I was personally interested in her struggles as an introvert. But what makes Solo unique is her experiences as a lightning rod during a tumultuous transition period between generations of the U.S. women's national team.

The members of the 1999 Women's World Cup have been deservedly lionized by the American media for what they did to grow women's sports in America, but the media has too often failed to recognize that the '99 athletes are human beings, not goddesses. Solo exposes the flaws of the '99ers for all to see. She gives appropriate respect for the '99 team's accomplishments, while also explaining how these veterans later abuse their privilege. The veterans on the 2007 team enable coach Greg Ryan to make the fatal and foolish decision to bench Solo in the World Cup semifinals against Brazil in favor of '99 veteran Briana Scurry, despite Solo having been the starter throughout the World Cup to that point. When Solo stands up for herself after the 4-0 defeat, the petty treatment she receives from the veterans in the ensuing months is shocking.

Those responsible for rebuilding the U.S. women's national team post-2007 get the credit they richly deserve. The turning point in the team's history is the rebuilding of Solo's relationship with star forward Abby Wambach. As Solo explains, Abby initially becomes closer with the older generation than her own, and Abby joins the movement to bench Solo. But when Abby breaks her leg and misses the 2008 Olympics, she writes a deeply personal and inspirational letter to Solo, and the two become pillars of the U.S. team for years to come. Credit also goes to USSF President Sunil Gulati, who kindly reaches out to Solo in the aftermath of the 2007 World Cup, and sweet-hearted coach Pia Sundhage, who changes the culture of the team and allows it to move on from the 2007 incident. Hope's relationship with Pia isn't perfect, but it's a real relationship, and the good in both Pia and Hope shines through here.

Solo was widely criticized for speaking out about her 2007 benching, and many will undoubtedly continue to criticize her for "airing the dirty laundry" about her 2007 teammates in this book. Is there a good reason to write such a tell-all book? I strongly believe history needs to recognize that the 1999 Women's World Cup members were flawed individuals, like all human beings. (Hope Solo included!) My primary criticism of the book is that Solo isn't hard enough on the '99ers for the failure of the 2001-2003 WUSA, the first short-lived pro women's soccer league. Solo does mention how the league blew through five years worth of funding in one year and that the initial players were given lavish perks and travel opportunities. She does not make the explicit connection between the privileged '99 players who enabled her benching and the league's failure. While league investors were ultimately responsible for throwing away WUSA money on perks for the '99ers in 2001, the '99ers have cast themselves as always selflessly making sacrifices for the good of the game. Solo's story of 2007 and the WUSA's excess reveal the myth of the selfless '99ers. What many readers will find shocking in Solo's story is how the women's leagues in both Sweden and France were far more professional than what she experienced with pro women's soccer in the U.S. The recent history of U.S. pro women's soccer is full of missed opportunities, and the failure of the '99ers should be better understood so history does not repeat itself.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 15, 2012 3:17:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 15, 2012 3:18:08 PM PDT
DRDR says:
I hadn't read the online epilogue when I wrote my review. (The epilogue is available at http://files.harpercollins.com/Mktg/HarperCollins/PDF/SoloBonusChapter.pdf at no cost.) The epilogue contains timely insights on Solo's Brandi tweets, Japan's great sportsmanship, Canada's poor sportsmanship, and Becky Sauerbrunn's defensive play. Sauerbrunn's marking allows Solo to make one of the key saves against Japan. Solo also details her emotions during her positive drug test and the her stepfather's passing.

The section on Brandi furthers the theme I mentioned in my main review: the media myth that the '99ers can do no wrong. I don't believe Brandi's commentary was anything worth getting worked up about, but the idea that Solo somehow shouldn't ever criticize a member of the '99 team is a perfect example of the double standard for female athletes that Solo complains about. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant being told never to criticize Michael Jordan, if Jordan were to make critical statements about the Lakers?

Pia's threat to kick Solo off the Olympic team for publishing the book before the Olympics has made headlines. Solo claims a double standard for female athletes in the postponement, but she is wrong here. No analog exists for a controversial athlete publishing a book right before their most important event of the year. She claims Kobe Bryant would never be censored like that, but could you imagine Kobe publishing a tell-all on his rape trial and his conflicts with past and present Laker teammates right before the NBA finals? Moreover, I believe the release timing actually helps Solo's book sales. I had no interest in reading a Hope Solo autobiography during the Olympics when there was so much going on. This book was the perfect cure for Olympic hangover, and it keeps Solo's name in the headlines after the Olympics. Solo should send Pia a thank-you note.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012 2:20:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2012 2:21:40 PM PDT
Wow...your comments are very insightful...I had no idea the WUSA went down so bad. What is with this country that we can't embrace soccer more? Go to any field during spring and summer and that's all the little kids play, girls and boys! I played soccer growing up and still love it, yet I COMPLETELY respect other athletes and other sports. I'm looking forward to the day the US wakes up to the potential of soccer...I'm not losing HOPE!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2012 1:01:17 AM PDT
DRDR says:
It's just hard for any new league to compete. Building brands and fan bases is so critically important when it comes to pro sports. You have to recognize that any new pro league is competing against U.S. men's pro sports leagues that have been building their fan bases since before women even had the right to vote - Title IX gives women a more level playing field within college sports, but it doesn't reverse the lingering effects of discrimination on consumers of pro sports. Obscuring this effect is the phony idea that the lack of appeal for women's sports is all about a talent gap with men (such a gap may exist, but it's not the whole story). Women's sports have done well financially when they can easily build off existing brands -- e.g. NCAA sports, the Olympics, the World Cup, the tennis Grand Slams -- but women's soccer is handicapped by the lack of any strong tradition of pro soccer in the U.S. I don't believe there are any easy solutions.

As I mentioned in my review, Solo was more impressed by the women's leagues in Sweden & France than WUSA & WPS in the U.S. This is a consequence of the existing soccer traditions ind the relative lack of competition from other sports in these countries. The Lyon women's team in France can build off the tradition of the Lyon men's team. The women's teams here can't build off the MLS in the same way.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2014 8:20:58 AM PDT
sammy says:
Uh, it's not a "phony idea" that women athletes competing in the same sport as men aren't as good genetically. Its a scientific fact.

FACT Most men don't particularly care to watch women's sports, and why should they? At the end of the day, why should they?

FACT Most women don't particularly support women's sports either. Women in general don't care for sports to the same extent as men and never have. Yes, yes, yes, there are women who are passionate sports fans but they are not the majority of women.

FACT: From a scientific, genetic, DNA perspective, men and women are different and should not be controversial to state as such. Hence, men and women have different interests. More women would rather watch events and shows that are more geared toward women. Sports, most of which were created by men, are primarily geared toward men, and so what? That's life.

FACT: It is a complete misstatement of fact to say that discrimination oon consumers exist in pro sports. No one is preventing women from gaining a foothold in sports, contrary to conspiracy theorists.

In short, if women athletes want more followers of their particular sports, they either have to figure a way to attract more women fans or attract more men to their games. Based on historical facts its not very likely whatsoever that they will ever attract sufficient numbers of men to their sports as spectators. Men passionately enjoy watching the best athletes in sports and that tends to be men. Why its such a mystery is anyone's guess. Women also tend to enjoy watching men playing sports in far greater numbers than they enjoy watching women sports.

One thing though can be said about equality is that it cuts both ways. If Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are poster kids for domestic violence, then one of the most famous women's athlete in the world is now a face for domestic abuse as well.

Irony: Just as US soccer is trying to grow the sport, they've hitched their wagon to a domestic abuser. The face of Women's Soccer to the general public could, per her trial, receive quite a lot of national publicity and unfortunately it won't be very positive to say the least.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2014 1:42:26 AM PDT
DRDR says:
The "phony idea" I described was that the appeal gap is all about the talent gap, so why is your first sentence claiming I think there's no talent gap?

You're entirely missing my point about discrimination. Yes, consumers are free to choose what they watch. But there's no denying that women suffered from discrimination in the past, and that this matters for sports leagues today. When you're competing against men's leagues that have a century of history and building fan bases, you're obviously at a huge disadvantage.

As for the claim people only want to watch the best at any sport, then why is the Little League World Series getting better ratings than ever? Why do people watch college sports that have pro leagues? I agree the talent gap will to some extent little women's pro leagues from being as successful as men's pro leagues, but it's clearly not the most significant factor.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2014 6:06:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 4, 2014 6:09:17 PM PDT
sammy says:
Ok, thanks for clearing up the first part regarding a talent gap, since there obviously is from a purely scientific standpoint. Thanks for clearing up the confusion.

Yes, yes, yes, they've suffered discrimination in times past, can we move on now? Honestly, some people tend to milk the past discrimination over and over and over for profit and personal benefit but to little use. It's in the past, things have greatly improved, and are getting better.

But again, here is where we differ. I don't tend to believe that, barring some major achievement on the part of women to play at the level of men (and that would take a vast improvement from a scientific standpoint), I don't believe that men will ever be major fans of women's sports IF the alternative exists, namely, the alternative is to watch men's sports over women.

That tends to be a part of human nature. Men tend to gravitate to men and women toward women in a general sense on most things.

The LLWS is an entirely different matter, HOWEVER. One can also state, look at when the LLWS is on, during August, a "dead" month of sports. It's unlikely ever to be on during September or October cause then it would be up vs NFL, NCAA, World Series, you know, sports that tend to "matter" from a ratings standpoint.

No, NCAA is the best "amateur" league that there is going for the individual sports. Its simply apples to oranges to compare NCAA to little league 12yr olds. The NCAA is the final stop gap before the pros and many NCAA starters could in theory be starters for the NFL and certainly for the NBA. Also, the NCAA FB is on on Saturday and not Sunday vs the NFL where it would be crushed in the ratings particularly in those markets that have an NFL team. This is done deliberately so as not to upset each others applecarts. In that sense, the NCAA serves as a complement to the NFL.

Thats where we tend to differ: I believe that the talent gap between men and women will always exist in a significant way. And the reasons are obvious. Namely, the talent gap has always existed and doesnt show any signs of closing. Yes, women athletes are better today than they were decades ago.....but so are men. And since men were already better athletes the fact that they continue to improve as well means that the gap will always exist.

I'm not saying that women sports can't ever increase from an audience standpoint. Ironically, the sports that women do well from an audience standpoint tend to be during the Olympics and also in individual sports (tennis, and to some lesser extend golf and possibly MMA in the future).

It is women's team sports that tend to run into trouble in growing their games. After all, if the choice is WNBA vs NBA, the NBA will always win since its the sport with the purest and superior talent.

Also, my point tends to be borne out by the fact that the WNBA and other women's team sports are generally not on vs their male sport counterpart, which would only be counterproductive (e.g. sports fans could quickly see for themselves which of the two playing the sport is far superior).

Not trying to be provoking, just stating the obvious. The message may not be a popular one but it does contain the facts.

Re: Hope Solo. It doesn't appear to be good for her. And here is where equality should be brought to the forefront. If it's good that Ray Rice, Peterson etc in the NFL have been suspended, then lets end the double standard on Solo and suspend her as well. It is partly because she is a woman and partly because its a woman's sport that she's largely getting a pass on the issue of domestic violence. Equality would state that the athlete, whether man or woman, should be punished in the same way, the same manner. If its okay to suspend NFLer who are charged w/Domestic Violence than they should also suspend Hope Solo as well since she has been charged with the same violent crime, domestic violence.

Representing one's country, the National Team, is not a right; it's a privilege and by being charged with domestic violence, Solo has clearly violated that privilege. Time to do the ethical thing and suspend her now.
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