Sunday, October 14, 2007

Same ol', same ol'

It would look more prophetic if I had posted it earlier, but it doesn't surprise me that there wasn't much outcry against the women's team at their game in St. Louis.

I have to disagree with some of the posters who mentioned here that they believed the majority of the women's fans were up in arms over how the team was treating Hope Solo. I think a number of fans were bothered, but I'm skeptical about it being a significant percentage, frankly.

As I mentioned before, the image-makers at the US Soccer federation have a vested interest in marketing the squad as ideal role models. From the start of this, they've positioned the other players as the wronged party, and Solo as the destroyer of team codes, norms and ideals. Many people bought that scenario. They've condemned Hope, and don't believe the team was out of line in how they reacted.

To a certain extent, I do think societal norms come into play here. The pressure on females to be seen and not heard is one that persists.

This is seen in how many people agree with what Solo said, but not that she said it, which still baffles me.

Those bringing their daughters to soccer games, however, don't neccesarily have time to parse those nuances out. Women's soccer fans in the U.S. are still an evolving bunch, and they're often not the most knowledgeable. I was talking to a female player once (not Hope) who played in Sweden and she said the great thing about performing there was how well the fans understood the game.

"You don't see crowds in the U.S. cheering a great defensive move, because they don't usually realize that's a great play. They cheer the most at the introductions and when a goal is scored. But the crowds in Sweden were great - they'd pay attention and cheer all the good little things. Great pass sequences sometimes get boos here, because people want to see shots. Over there, the fans go nuts when we possess the ball well, because they know that takes a lot of skill."

So, with a fan base more invested in what they hope the team represents (nice, good girls) than how they actually play, and a snow job by the fed to blame one person (Solo), not to mention the prevelant opinion that a women speaking up is trouble of some kind, it's not a surprise to me that there were only isolated, scattered pockets of protest.

Actually, I think it's a significant step that there was any visible reaction at all. Most people who got turned off by the entire situation simply boycotted the match, or never planned to go in the first place.

Honestly, I have to admit that I also believe there's an element at play here that never liked the women's national team and is reveling in the scandal now for that reason as well. These aren't fans the USWNT has lost - it never had them in the first place.

Though I don't think it's a large number, I do feel badly for the fans that were true, aware and appreciative supporters of the squad for the quality of their play. This was the group disturbed at the limited nature of the direct play the team employed, one that questioned Greg Ryan's tactics long before the goalkeeper switch. They wanted to see more young players given opportunities, and more creative tactics. They cared less about how players act off the field and more about how they play on it. They were probably even slightly cynical about the "We are Family" theme music blaring through the rationale to ostracize Solo.

It's these fans that might be turning on the USWNT. They're not satisfied with the excuses given for the loss to Brazil. They're not buying the distraction that Solo's words became. They're dismayed at how a player vocalizing a relevant opinion is punished by her own teammates.

The quality of these fans is much higher, I think, than their quantity.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very well said A.C.

We shall see what happens Wednesday night, if anything, in Hope`s turf.

Signed,

A U18 Girls Coach who still doesn`t understand & is disgusted. :(

Anonymous said...

Hard to know, but I do believe it is a significant percentage.

Anonymous said...

"This is seen in how many people agree with what Solo said, but not that she said it, which still baffles me."

I don't think this is a "male/female" thing, just the "team code" thing that leads people to say she shouldn't have said it, publicly.

A.C. said...

Sorry, I still think gender comes into play, at least for some people. I think the evidence against the idea it's all about the team code is the mountain of examples that male athletes say many similar or much worse things without facing accusations of betrayal.

Anonymous said...

maybe for some people, but the guys get it pretty good too when they break the "code".

Anonymous said...

But, I should have added, the treatment of Hope is totally over the top!

A.C. said...

I've heard players call out their teammates in the press numerous times. Sometimes they openly feud. I've never seen a reaction like the one the USWNT has shown.

One male national team star bluntly told me, "There is no "code". That's ridiculous."

Before you ask, no, it wasn't Landon. He's one who is not shy with his opinions, though.

Anonymous said...

For an athlete to say there is no "code", that does surprise me a bit. I don't think he really thinks that but w/e.

We've got 2 different things going on here, the fan reaction to players speaking out & the team/player reaction to players speaking out.

I think the fan reaction generally is not divided by gender. Maybe it is for some, but not from my perspective.

From a team reaction perspective, I totally agree with you. Guys don't tend to hold grudges, they have it out either privately or publicly, then go on with the business at hand, maybe not really liking each other but w/e. They go out for a beer and it's pretty much a done deal. Back to the business at hand, winning games on the pitch.

Unfortunately, not the same for females, as witnessed by the brutal treatment of Hope by her teammates, with the full support of the Coach because his ass is on the line for his sorry decisions and coaching ability or lack thereof.

This whole sorry mess has unfortunately taken the heat off him and he is working this to the max. One can only hope it won't work for him and save his job.

If Coach Ryan's contract is renewed after all this, shame, shame, shame on the USSF.

Beax Speax said...

I am now openly rooting for the USWNT to lose...

Anonymous said...

Okay, based on my own experience, I know few people who follow soccer. I know fewer people who's kids play soccer. I know very few people who themselves have played soccer. And the smallest group I know, can name very player on the current roster, follows the games and results religiously and got up really early to watch every WWC game...not just the WNT.

So if for the sake of making a difference, we assume that we the qulailty of fans is high but the quantity lacking, those few of us have even more of a responsiblity and opportunity to keep pressuring the Federation to replace Ryan.

So, please, take 5 minutes, go to ussoccer.com,,,,"contact us" and email a clear, respectful, adamant request for a team replacement. And let them know that you know Ryan is hiding behind this.

jason said...

To cite femaleness in explanation of the USWN team's reaction misses out on something essential.

There is no league yet in the states. This means that Ryan and company hold all the cards. With no exit options, these players do not have the ability to speak their minds without risk.

I think this is a stronger reason than sex-based grudges. In baseball, I remember a few pitches hitting batters months after home run celebrations.

Solo's career (in Sweden or the US) was jeopardized by Ryan. If she had said nothing, press would have speculated about her.

A.C. said...

Jason, you make a good point about the consequences of a lack of a league, though I also want to clarify that I don't think Hope being female is the cause of all the reaction, whether from the team or fans, but I do think it plays a part.

FC Uptown said...

This story is bit like the flip side of the Brandi Chastain celebration story. Both blondes, both attractive members of the US team, one famous in victory, the other in defeat. The sexual politics of female expression creeping at the edge of the story...

Anonymous said...

Again, unfortunately these types of debates take the heat off where it belongs, that being on Coach Ryan.

But, numerous comparisons have been made to the WTN behaving like a bunch of "mean girls", sorority girls, school girls, etc. Lindsay Lohan will be proud! :)

I coach U18 Girls teams & am the Dad of 2 teenage daughters.

Why do girls/women treat each other the way they do? Why do they appear to often take any opportunity to attack one of there own, isolate them, psychologically attack them, when they are vulnerable?

Is it simply envy & jealousy as I & several others have touched on in previous posts? Is there more to it then that?

Sure would love some input as my daughter (16 yrs old) is currently being put through some "mean girl" behaviour herself.

A.C., any thoughts?

Signed,

A male U18 Girls Soccer, Volleyball & Basketball Coach & player.

P.S. As a coach, Coach Ryan has me completely baffled by his actions, decisions & behaviour. I was worried about Hope's mental & emotional well being, still am, but she seemed fine on the sidelines last night.

Maybe it's Coach we should be worried about? 50 years of age. Mid life crisis? Male menopause?

JT (Chicago) said...

AC, I think you're correct about the number of people who actually care about the Ryan/Solo issue & for that matter Ryan's coaching abilities. It is a small number, a small number who take women's soccer seriously.

I think what is significant about last night's fan reaction at the St.L. match is the attendance. The base for USWNT matches is generally 7-10,000. That they were only a shade over 10,000 tells me that they didn't attract a heck of a lot of new fans with their WC performance. They didn't generate excitement with their play in general or their 3rd place finish.
It probably means that very few tickets were sold in the past couple weeks.

This has to concern USSF more than anything else because outside of the few of us who really follow women's soccer, nobody will remember much about the Ryan/Solo incident in a couple years.

However, the ticket & merchandise buying public will remember that the USWNT didn't win the WC and if they don't win the Olympic gold, that base attendance will shrivel down to 5-7,000.

It will be much harder to spin the target audiences into believing that this is a special team - whether they are "good girls" or not. It'll be much harder to get media to care enough to send reporters to their events or get ESPN to cover their matches. That has to scare USSF and that alone might force them to act on Ryan's tenure as coach.

JT (Chicago) said...

One other thing, about fans in the US not understanding the game as much as in Europe or elsewhere. That's changing.

At Fire matches I attend, I'm seeing more young people (men & women) aged 16-25 who seem to have an understanding of play that is far more sophisticated than people who attended Fire matches 5 years ago. Most likely they have a few years playing experience in their past.

Also, when the USWNT played New Zealand at Soldier Field this summer, the young U12 to U14s I saw, were definitely more into the ebb & flow of the match than I witnessed in previous years.

On the whole, I think our fan base in this country is becoming more knowledgeable as the generation that is 25 years old and younger is becoming a larger percentage of this country's soccer audience.

A.C. said...

Coach, I'm not sure there's an all-encompassing reason for this type of behaviour, but I do think it's related to the fact that many girls are encouraged by society to be cooperative, while guys are taught to be competitive.

Unfortunately, this means that some females end up channelling agressive feelings into social behaviour. Instead of challenging someone to an open fight, as a guy might, or stuffing a basketball in his face, some girls flex their power and influence over others to do damage to the community's opinion of someone.

As far as the women's team goes, I think it's more an issue of conformity and peer pressure. If I've sacrificed so much, never questioned authority and if I've curbed my individuality and emotions to maintain the facade our team has established as it's image, then I'm not going to be happy with someone stepping outside that paradigm.

Anonymous said...

Thank you A.C.

"some girls flex their power and influence over others to do damage to the community's opinion of someone."

This would be exactly what some of Hope's teammates are doing to her and it is disgusting. It's as if they were just waiting for the opportunity pounce.

How do we stop them from getting away with it?

I've sent messages to ussoccer and to some players directly through their web sites (Lori C.) but is it enough?

Naturally, my messages have also asked that Coach Ryan be held accountable for all this.

Coach

Anonymous said...

The following quote is from a fan who was at the game in St. Louis. It reflects my thoughts and I believe it just might reflect the feelings of a significant number of WTN fans. The postings on most message boards sure back up the support for Hope crusade. But is the USSF listening?

Fan quote:

"I found the game to be a really nauseating experience, and one I don't plan on repeating. Mexico sucked, and were very lucky their keeper was on her toes or it could have been much worse.

The "family" crowd was into the whole go go USA mentality. I saw very few signs, and GL pretty much got them all. I did, however, hear some boos when Ryan was announced. I also talked with some kindred spirits who expressed their disgust with Ryan.

In other words, just because they didn't have a sign didn't mean they were in love with Ryan. On the other hand, out of respect for Chalupny and her family and followers I think there might have been more reluctance to be really vocal.

I was shocked they got nearly 11 k in attendance, I was expecting half of that. This will be my last game until Ryan leaves, and even then its going to be tough to ever feel the same way about this team. I never thought I would think Lilly and Wambach were witches-I just can't see ever warming up to either again or accepting the bizarro way the team and Ryan have mishandled all this. I have followed this team for over 20 years, but I'd rather root for our high school or college team than pay to watch another USWNT game."

The number of postings that are ashamed of & disgusted by Coach Ryan & "team leaders" is significantly higher then those in favour of this teams actions, which for the most part are non-existant. Vocal minority? Perhaps?

I can say this, if a Coach from Canada feels this strongly about the whole thing, there has to be significant feelings about this situation within the USWNT fan base.

Let's see what happens Wed night in Portland.

I sure wish there were more "friendlies" with Canada! The level of competition would be good, I think.

Keep up the good work A.C. :)

Coach

Anonymous said...

Take a look at these!

"Sideline Views" is in there too!


http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/solo-is-back-but-what-of-ryan/


http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/13/solo-speaks-i-am-truly-sorry/

Coach

ghostwriter said...

AC is undoubtedly right here.

My question is this: isn't team discipline the coach's responsibility, and, if so, what's Ryan's excuse....is he a woman, too?

If he'd (even given the ridiculous switch in the first place and his stated rationale which questioned Hope's competence) have handled this like a proper coach and reasonable human being in the first place, this would have ended weeks ago. All he needed to say after the Solo outburst was: this is my fault, Hope's unhappy with me, I didn't sell this to her well enough, and she was just really upset at the loss given what a fierce competetor she is, she didn't mean to criticise Scurry with whom I know she's had a good relationship. She's appologized to the team and its been accepted. But unfortunately, she's broken unwritten team protocols and will be benched for Norway and fined an amount to be determined later which will go into a team kitty to be used for some purpose the team decides.

Who cares if the players would have had issues with that, they're professionals, get over it. And if that meant they'd have played worse or Norway better in the consolation match, I'll eat a soccer ball.

If he had the least little bit of character, this is a short term disipline problem, not a long term gut wrenching Scarlet Letter circus.

But where it is now, I just don't see a way back for Hope. I really would like to be wrong on that, but I don't see how she's got any friends in either Fed or WNT now, and I don't expect to see any of the leopards arrayed against her change their spots. And I'd agree that all of us upset by this are essentially shouting to each other in a closed room. The noise isn't likely going to change a single thing any of the parties here do.

The good news is that there IS women's soccer (I thought Germany/Brazil was WAY more entertaining than the last Italy/France men's final), that a pro league is again on the way, and, unlike in some other countries, women are not criticized here for playing nor prohibited entirely from doing so.

It would also be a good thing to see Hope Solo in net again some time, some place.

JT (Chicago) said...

From post at October 15, 2007 6:57 AM

"This will be my last game until Ryan leaves, and even then its going to be tough to ever feel the same way about this team. I never thought I would think Lilly and Wambach were witches-I just can't see ever warming up to either again ..."

One good thing about this whole debacle is that most of us can stop treating the USWNT as a unit, a single entity. There will be acknowledged heroes & villians within the squad.

Pre WUSA, only a few fans could see that not all USWNT players were the huggable darlings USSF wanted us to think they were. During WUSA, we got to see the true nature of players come out week after week, and it definitely made it harder to cheer their national team exploits - just as it is with any Men's national team.

You love the players playing for your club team, respect a few who play for other clubs, and hold your nose when you "must" cheer for the villians who play for your rivals or for those individuals who play in a cynical manner.

There is a bright side. Women's soccer in the States is evolving.

Anonymous said...

I actually started following the USWMNT in 1991 when I read a story about their World Cup win in, I believe, Soccer America but could find precious little about them on any other media outlet. When they hit it big in 1999 it became a lot easier to follow them. What was great about them was that they didn’t dive or give the ref a whole lot of grief and they were a very attractive bunch of people, sort of the little engine that could. I realized that, from an athletic competition standpoint, they only had a few serious opponents, China, Denmark, Sweden and Germany but I was so impressed with how Coach Dicicco had them organized that I was sure they could handle any challenge. Fast forward to 2007 and what has changed?

Well they really haven’t improved or even maintained their dominance since Dicicco left. The less said about his successors the better. In 1999 they were like a pro team playing in the college ranks and now many other countries have graduated. Every position seemed to have lots of young depth coming up but now that pipeline seems to have dried up. The massive media support for them since seems to have been more of a media myth or a sociological phenomenon, rather than an athletic one.

In terms of solving their technical, athletic problems the solution should not be difficult. Bring in a top flight coach with real power. For too long now this team has been the Harlem Globetrotters when they could have been the Boston Celtics. Thev have grown soft, weak and gutless (not just off the field).

Solving their chemistry and image problem is another matter. The ugly reality now seeping out of the camp certainly makes it difficult to ever view this bunch in the same positive light again. I don’t think of myself as na├»ve but I thought for a long time this was a real classy bunch, the one team worth looking up to. Oh well….

John

JT (Chicago) said...

John wrote:

"What was great about them was that they didn’t dive or give the ref a whole lot of grief ..."

Take another look at the tapes from that earlier era. You'll see both actions on display.

Anonymous said...

JT (Chicago) said...
John wrote:

"What was great about them was that they didn’t dive or give the ref a whole lot of grief ..."

Take another look at the tapes from that earlier era. You'll see both actions on display.
_________________________

That may be but it was and still is not anywhere near as blatant as what you get from the likes of Rivaldo, Ruiz and other great actors on the male side. It's like watching professional wrestling.