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Our Game 2:  Hope Solo is The Pugnacious, Pessimistic, Prideful, Princess of Pitch 

Hope Solo’s always had a razor sharp tongue and fighter’s spirit – on and off the soccer field.

Hope Solo’s always had a razor sharp tongue and fighter’s spirit – on and off the soccer field. Those characteristsics are the driving ingredients in her rise to top-dawg net-protector for Team USA Women’s Soccer. The gully goalie with the rock-hard Abs, cat-like quickness and Greek Goddess figure is one of the most notable faces in her sport and considered among the best women to ever roam no man’s land.

 

On September 13th, the Richland, Washington native set a new U.S. record with her 72nd shutout in an 8-0 Team USA pasting of Mexico. Her two Olympic Gold Medals are also shiny, tangible, priceless symbols of her soccer game which stays on fleek.

After years of shutting down corner kicks, stifling the world’s greatest attackers and coming up with dynamic saves, Solo is in the twilight of her soccer domination. In the larger scheme of life, she’s just getting started and she’s in a typical place for legends. She’s aging and at a crossroads as she transitions into a new phase.

Solo has seen better times. The last few years have been hard, free, c’hip-driven and boisterous –just like she plays her soccer.


On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced that they were suspending Solo for 30 days in light of her increasingly volatile pattern of behavior and poor judgment over the past year.


In her latest appearance on a police blotter, Solo's husband, former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Southern California at 1:30 a.m. on Monday. Police said Solo, was in the car at the time, but she was not arrested or detained, but it has been reported that she was aggressive and verbally abusive towards the police and at one point started filming the incident with her cell phone.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Solo was held out of practice on Tuesday as it was determined if she violated any team rules.

"During our current National Team camp, Hope made a poor decision that has resulted in a negative impact on U.S. Soccer and her teammates," U.S. women's national team head coach Jill Ellis said in a statement. "We feel at this time it is best for her to step away from the team."


Despite her recent brushes with the law, Solo’s avoided the potentially harsh media stingray and outcry of social responsibility groups, but it’s all catching up to her now.

Solo was charged in June with two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault for allegedly punching and tackling her 17-year-old nephew, as well as attacking his mother (Solo’s sister) when she tried to break up the altercation.
 


Solo's attorney, Todd Maybrown, claimed she acted in self defense after her 6-foot-9, 280-pound nephew hit her with a broomstick.

A judge dismissed the charges last week, saying the case was "impermissibly prejudiced" by a lack of cooperation from witnesses. Solo continued to play while she faced the charges. It seemed as if she was in the clear, but now this latest suspension will cause Solo to miss February friendlies against France and England.

The USWNT, which has already qualified for the 2015 Women's World Cup, is currently in training camp in Carson, Calif. This will definitely mess up Solo and Team USA’s flow and with the U.S. team finishing a disappointing second to Japan in the 2011 World Cup, Solo’s on-field presence is mandatory.

USA Soccer was on some, “if you keep it hush hush, w’ell keep it hush, hush,” in regard to the level of public attention the organization needed to bring to the charges.

 

Double Standards Delay Scandals



The National Team desperately needs the 5-foot-9, dynamo to man goal in super-sized international battle, and it doesn’t need any added distractions or tainted images as it presents women’s soccer as the most wholesome of international, high-stakes competition.


In that regard, they are no different than the NFL and Roger Goodell attempting to basically sweep the Ray Rice incident under the rug. Protecting the billion-dollar brand is always the plan.

While Rice’s elevator incident got all of the ink in ‘14, the pride of U.S. Women’s soccer was moving shady, but under the radar.

None of Solo’s incidents were caught on tape, so her situation is a bit different. But let’s be real; the fact that she isn’t a 6-foot-4, 240-pound running back for the Minnesota Vikings is why her story didn’t evoke the anger and barnstorm of emotion that Rice’s physical encounter did.

It appears that Solo’s entire life—between the captivating smile, camera flashes, accumulation of accolades and Hollywood happenings—is trapped in a whirlwind of inflicting and accepting abuse.


Prior to Solo’s domestic abuse accusation in 2012, her husband Jeremy was arrested for assaulting her following an argument the couple had.

According to Chris Daniels at KING-TV, cops say Solo and Stevens were involved in an altercation around 3:45 AM on a Monday … after arguing about where they will live after they get married — Florida or Washington.
 

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According to Daniels, cops found Solo with a small amount of blood on her elbow … but she wasn't very cooperative with police.

It’s strange that Janay Rice received all of this flack for staying with her husband and keeping her family together, but no one criticized Solo for staying with Stevens following their physical encounter.


Double standards are abound. As an African-American male Rice is held to a higher standard of behavior and exposed to prejudiced and pre-conditioned assumptions when it comes to issues of domestic violence in this country. In addition, Rice’s occupation as a football player and the negative rep NFL ballers have earned over the years with the help of heightened media scrutiny and sick cats like Rae Carruth and Jevon Belcher, didn’t help temper the public backlash.


 

A Superstar's Gift And The Curse

 

Solo is a symbol of American athletics and a product of the hypocrisy of images in sports. She represents girls with ponytails and painted nails offering their country an international glory earned with permanently scarred knees and a rare testosterone-filled streak of competitive aggression.

Solo’s exploits at the supreme level of her craft garnered her a fame and adulation typically reserved for royalty. A tale of triumph like Solo’s, inspires thousands of young girls to greater pursuits. Once she became iconic, her whirlwind of celebrity life began.

In 2011, Solo was a contestant on the 13th season of Dancing with the Stars. She has made appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman, Piers Morgan Tonight, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Chelsea Lately, and Whitney. 

 

Solo was also the focus of an ESPN E: 60 episode in 2012 and during her interview with Jeremy Schaap, she told of her turmoil-filled experience at the 2007 World Cup as well as her fractured childhood.



We can’t forget the photo shoot in ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue. If women soccer players weren’t considered sex symbols before, Solo ushered in a new era with that spread.

 

 

In 2013, she was featured in the documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America (PBS) and an ESPN documentary series, Nine for IX.


TheNine for IX documentary, Branded, focused on the marketing of female professional athletes and the double standard that they often face with more value placed on beauty rather than their athletic excellence.Branded received the highest viewership of all of the documentaries in the series.

 

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Born To Battle and Ball

Solo has been goalkeeping for the United States women's national soccer team since the age of 18. She sparked her career in 2000. After playing at the collegiate level for the University of Washington, she played professionally for the Philadelphia Charge in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA).



When the WUSA folded, she bounced to Europe to catch wreck and get further seasoning with elite division leagues in Sweden and France. From 2009 to 2011, she played in the Women's Professional Soccer league (WPS) for Saint Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat and magicJack.

The WPS folded in early 2012, about the same time the demons of her personal life and an inflated ego started chipping away at her glorious and well-respected public persona.

Against the wishes of her coach, Solo wrote a book with Sports Illustrated columnist Ann Killion titled "SOLO: A Memoir of Hope, which chronicles her helping Team USA win a gold medal at the London Olympics. In the book she reveals her personal demons and candidly elaborates on the much-publicized incidents in her career.

 

In it, she writes about how U.S. coach Pia Sundhage asked her to delay publication of the book, threatening to not play her in the Olympics if it came out prior to the Games. She also gives insight into her personal life and how it has affected her relationships with people.

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.



Some of Solo's sharpest criticisms are about Ryan, who she says consulted with team veterans, including Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach before benching her. She also writes that during a meeting with Ryan, he pushed her back onto a couch as she tried to leave.

She details the next 72 hours, how she confronted Lilly and Wambach, among others, and explains the background that led to her legendary and ballsy postgame quote after the Brazil loss, where she felt it necessary to knock a past giant in O.G. goalkeeper Briana Scurry in order to express her disapproval: "It was the wrong decision,” Solo insisted. “And I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore. It's not 2004. It's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present."

Solo’s bluntness and lack of diplomacy at times was at the forefront of a riff between the remaining titans of the storied Women’s 1999 World Cup-winning squad and the new blood which Solo represents.

Solo details the long shadow that team cast, and the split she felt between players from that era and her own. A split that Solo continues to agitate with some lick-shot Twitter-flexing.

First she engaged in a war of words with Brandi Chastain , a member of the 1999 team who was doing color commentary for NBC at the 2012 Olympics for not supporting the American team enough, and for being too negative. Then in 2013 when she was left off of the USNT all-time Best XI list in favor of Scurry , she brought USNT great Julie Foudy the ruckus.



 

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I can respect the young grasshopper holding down the new regime and demanding respect from the old heads. Transition of power is always a difficult situation to maneuver. Somebody usually winds up butt hurt and getting their spot blown like Waco, Texas.

Part of diplomatically finessing those sticky situations, however, is knowing when to step off the pedal. A soccer-assassin like Solo doesn’t have an off switch—which leaves her at this messy crossroads of life. We have seen it before.

It’s a typical American sports triumph-turned-tragedy. Most world class athletes are driven in their younger years by some emptiness that can most effectively be filled through an athletic outlet. They rise to fame with uncanny skill and a rare drive and determination. Their savant talents lead them into a sheltered celebrity world, and eventually they are cast back into society to perpetuate all of the negative aspects of their delicately –structured personalities without any guidance.


As life progresses and things outside of the daily sports grind become important (such as relationships and kids) these superstar athletes tend to deal with life’s trials and tribulations with the same competitive and unrelenting force that dominated their athletic mind states. Sometimes they turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of their non-sports existence. Sometimes they act out in deviant ways. It’s not a stretch to suggest that a simple way to sum up competition at the world class levels is “kill or be killed,” – but do it with some type of dignity.

 

When Sadness Is An Inevitable Destiny 


Solo’s last pure and positively definable moment was her all-star performance at the 2012 Olympics which ended with a 2-1 win over Japan. She was a human vacuum cleaner and fly swatter, denying Japan with a series of remarkable saves.

"We felt like a team," Solo said after the Olympic final. "Everybody felt like they could contribute. Everybody. … Honestly, it's the first time in my athletic career that I felt like it was a true team."

A solid fam is the one thing Solo has been searching for her entire life. It’s when she is most at peace. Solo has spent most of her career tongue-lashing and bashing on coaches, teammates, family members and former players.

At times she’s akin to a baby; kicking, screaming and pouting on the floor for attention. Spilling over the peas and spitting out apple juice just to get her point across. Even she predicted an ending to her career that wasn’t the farewell a sports legend deserves.

She kicks it on the real in her book when she writes, “I don’t believe in happy endings, My family doesn’t believe in happy endings. We don’t do happy endings. We do sad endings or frustrated endings. Or no ending at all.”


With nothing left to accomplish in soccer, maybe this month off will allow Solo to find the eternal peace she’s been searching for since she was a shorty.


In soccer terms, she’s in a sudden death match for her life and legacy and she needs to come up with a huge save.

Of course she can quiet all malcontents by putting on a typically badass performance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer.

Barring any further mishaps (her marriage is volatile and she definitely needs to address that situation if she hopes to change her current circumstances) Solo can get back on the ball. I’m sure the media will help her paint the perfect picture and the book on her combative and competitive life is not finished. The question is whether or not she will allow the final chapter to be a happy one. That’s something that she just doesn’t seem too interested in.

 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.