It's pretty depressing to read the emails I've gotten accusing me of letting Hope Solo off the hook for her comments (which they construe as attacking Briana Scurry) because Solo's female and I'm in some sort of solidarity with her because of that. Exactly what do they think Scurry is, then?
A male colleague reported that some of his emails have consisted of "You're sympathizing with a backstabbing harpy because she's cute."
Perhaps we're actually of the opinion that Solo was right because we cover soccer and we have brains?
I've fielded emails today comparing Hope Solo to Michael Vick and Terrell Owens - except in the more negative sense, saying she is worse than either of them.
I think that's crazy. If anything, I think the backlash some people have inflicted on Solo comes from the image many people have of U.S. Soccer as a sport for nice, educated, white females who are "good girls" who never bleat anything controversial or interesting, just go out and play hard, fair and always with honor and pluck.
To a certain extent, it's because many sports reporters know little about soccer, or about women's soccer, other than the smiling images that exploded all over the U.S. in 1999.
However, part of that was a media puffery that wanted to focus on all the bright spots and none of the darker ones.
That's why so many news outlets glossed over Mia Hamm's moodiness, the rumors of eating disorders of some team members, and the fact that the penalty that Scurry saved in 1999 was due to the classic goalkeeper's cheat of coming off the line early. This treatment of the team continued after that "golden generation". Is it any wonder people grew bored with the team? The new generation of players became more plastic and inhuman as they tried to live up to this perfect ideal that never really existed. Pladitudes became the post-game quotes. Anything else was overlooked. Most news media ignored Scurry's own comments about another goalkeeper, Siri Mullinux, when Scurry stated that she would have made the saves Millinux missed in the 2000 Olympic goal medal game. One can argue that she didn't say it right after the game, but I find it even more telling that Scurry mentioned it years after the event. There's no "in the heat of the moment" excuse there. She'd been mulling that for a long time.
One suspects that in order to retain this mythos of the happy, idealistic USWNT, players who dissented or did't conform were left off the squad, like Tiffeny Milbrett, Shannon MacMillain, and Brandi Chastain.
It wasn't their cuteness that made them invisible to many media outlets who could have broadcast their plight - it was the fact that they stepped out of the line and out of the box that many had safely packaged for the U.S. team. "Sour grapes," was the universal dismissal.
It's disappointing for me to hear Foudy, of all people, call Solo out for her honesty and say that she wouldn't want to play in front of her. Foudy was famous for saying all sorts of things, and some of them weren't very nice. She let herself be human and spoke candidly, yet she won't allow the next generation to do the same?
What really baffles me is those who say that Solo was right to criticize Ryan, but not Scurry. The leap of logic to take her comments as a bashing of Scurry could just as easily be made in another direction. Solo could have said exactly what she did with her motivation being a fierce defense of Scurry - who was made to look bad by a desperate coach who wanted poor Scurry to reclaim some long-ago magic despite not having had the preparation time needed to perform at such a top level.
On the first goal, Scurry herself admitted she could have communicated with Leslie Osborne better. On the second goal, her former coach, Tony DiCicco, one of her biggest boosters ever, said, "Bri on her game makes that save." Yet even when there were still eleven players in front of her, Bri wasn't on her game. She couldn't be because time and Solo's own skills had passed her by for the number one spot a goalkeeper needs to man regularly to be sharp.
Ryan wouldn't admit this. It definitely seemed like he doubted his team's skills. He wasn't using their depth. Kristine Lilly said after the Brazil match, "I'm so tired." No freakin' wonder! Ryan wouldn't sub out his other legend and her legs were gone. It wasn't Solo's words that threw the U.S. squad under the bus, it was Ryan's actions. He didn't trust the current version of the team and reached into the past for a savior, regardless of how bad it made that individual look when they simply weren't up to the task.
Heck, this is what I thought when I saw an injured John O'Brien at the last World Cup, or a slowing Claudio Reyna, for that matter. Arena didn't believe in the youth of the squad as he had once before, back in 2002.
Niether did Ryan. How does Lindsey Tarpley go from playing in every Olympic match in 2004 to hardly seeing the field in a World Cup three years later? Did she somehow get worse in the interim?
Perhaps I'm being too hard on some of those writing in, though. Perhaps they simply don't, like Solo said, know the game of soccer. So much depends on team chemistry, especially on defense. Goakeepers direct the defenders and are often the coaches on-field for their squad. Ryan's move superseded all the continuity the team had and sent them a clear message that he didn't believe that the way the squad had worked in all the months leading up to the World Cup was good enough. It was a panic move, and not surprisingly, it caused some panic among the team.
Solo's words to acknowledge this were not an attack on Scurry, her team, or anyone else except the person responsible for making that poor decision. She referenced 2004 not to belittle Scurry's accomplishments (why does she label Scurry as a "big name" if she doesn't respect her?), but to point out the obvious flaw in Ryan's reasoning for the change. It's not 2004.
Marta and Brazil are much better than they were in 2004, and the unified and cohesive defensive effort that Denmark or Australia showed against Brazil was what was needed to defeat them, not some "Hail Mary" move into the past to look for individual brilliance.
Especially from Scurry, who at her age and with little game readiness, could hardly be expected to comply with Ryan's flashback dream. His choice tarnished Scurry's legacy, because more people will remember this match than do the 2004 game. Though Solo was no doubt speaking from her own hurt of being overlooked, her words against Ryan's decision were actually a defense of the entire team and everything they had worked for, including Scurry.