Chalk up another triumph for Title IX, further proof that female athletes have come a long way the past few decades. It's called "Solo," a tell-all memoir from star U.S. soccer goalie and recent Olympic hero Hope Solo.
Solo isn't dissing male chauvinists (except perhaps for one coach) or top sports moguls for making life difficult for top-shelf female athletes. No, she's taking on her former 2007 World Cup teammates, violating any taboo about keeping internal team battles out of the public spotlight.
What's new here is that Solo has given us an inside look at a women's team, warts and all. She's even identified some of her teammates who threw her under the team bus, including the Rochester area's Abby Wambach, surrounding Solo's benching and the public response that got her suspended from the 2007 World Cup team. That speaks volumes in itself – that there's enough public interest in the personalities and internal squabbling on a women's team to sell a warehouse full of books. Readers, of course, also will buy this book to learn more about a fascinating Olympic hero.
Ever since she burst onto the scene, Hope Solo has been an enigma.
First, was this a stage name, a goalie named Solo? With the first name of Hope? The book reveals exactly who and what she is: a strong, outspoken, sometimes brazen athlete, who also can be shy, an insecure product of an often dysfunctional State of Washington family.
To wit, her mother was a recovering alcoholic, her father a con man and drifter who lived under a blue tarp in the woods and later was charged – mistakenly – with murder. Solo remains fiercely loyal to both, despite the emotional scars they may have inflicted.
"My family doesn't do happy endings," she writes. "We do sad endings or frustrating endings or no endings at all. We are hardwired to expect the next interruption or disappearance or broken promise."Her hardscrabble youth played out in Richland, Wash., a former nuclear-testing ground. "We don't do politically correct in Richland," she writes. "When I was in high school, one of our school cheers was ‘Nuke 'em, nuke 'em, nuke 'em till they glow.'"
Maybe that helps explain Solo's combative style. She's a confronter, never shy about putting down a teammate when necessary, even when they were stars like Wambach and Kristine Lilly, who apparently suggested Solo be benched for the 2007 World Cup semifinal against Brazil. Solo, who had notched three straight World Cup shutouts, was stunned by the move, and she didn't keep her thoughts to herself.
Solo described the scene at the post-game press conference, after the Americans, with her on the bench, were thrashed, 4-0. "I stepped toward the microphone and, in an instant, broke an unwritten code that decrees female athletes don't make waves. We don't criticize. We don't dare wander beyond political correctness. Our hard competitive edges are always smoothed down for public display. ‘It was the wrong decision,' I said, my voice shaking with emotion. ‘And I think anybody who knows anything about the game knows that.'"
That led to Solo being suspended, not allowed to attend the third-place game or even eat with the team. And it led to her being summoned to one of the team leaders' rooms, accused of betraying them and breaking the team code.
But there's also more to this story. The last five years have seen Solo win herself back into the good graces of Wambach and others. And while Solo may not be anyone's angelic girl-next-door – unless you live next door to a brash young lady – she comes across as a tough, highly principled woman who overcame a rough upbringing and used her combativeness to become the world's best female goalie.
And now she's got an Olympic gold medal to prove it.
Gene Warner is a veteran News reporter and inveterate Olympic watcher.
Solo, A Memoir of Hope
By Hope Solo, with Ann Killion
Harper Collins285 pages, $24.99?