So, Hope Solo is talking, again. I missed the match about which the current controversy arose, because I was, sadly, at China Basin watching the Dodgers destroy the Giants, 10-0.
In their second match of the 2012 Olympics, the U.S. women’s team defeated Colombia, 3-0. By all accounts, it could have been a bigger margin, and the main thing to come out of the game looked to be the black eye Abby Wambach received after being punched by Colombian player Lady Andrade. With their win, the U.S. clinched a trip to the quarter-finals with a game to spare.
But after the match, Solo took to Twitter to express her anger with former star Brandi Chastain, who is currently in the announcers’ booth as a commentator. Solo called Chastain out for saying one of Solo’s teammates was “the worst defender” (Solo’s words), for not keeping up with the times (“Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago”), and for not “helping 2 grow the sport”.
I love Hope Solo, and one reason for that is her tendency to say what she thinks. It strikes me as a bit odd that she wishes Chastain would quit commenting about defense, given that Brandi was a top defender herself in her playing days. Sticking up for her teammate, on the other hand, is a good idea, especially since Solo has gotten into trouble in the past for speaking poorly of teammates. Basically, I don’t have to agree with her points (and, as I noted, I didn’t watch the game in question) to find Solo refreshing.
But that last part, about “helping 2 grow the sport”, hits on something that has bothered me for a long time. Ever since MLS arrived, San Jose Earthquakes fans have complained about the media … not what the media says, but what they don’t say. The Earthquakes are ignored, according to this thinking, as if the Quakes/soccer/San Jose meant nothing. The San Jose Mercury News was often singled out, and I can’t count the number of times someone would state that it was the job of the local media, like the Merc, to be supportive of local businesses.
This is, to be brief, horseshit. It is, perhaps, how the world really works. But the ideal of a free press is that they exist to tell the public what is happening (“news”). It is dangerous when the press becomes a publicity arm of local businesses (or, if the scale is larger, national or international businesses). It isn’t the job of the New York Times to convince us that the banks, or the President, or the Knicks, are good. It isn’t their job to convince us to buy tickets to the NBA, to vote for the President (except on the opinion pages), to bend over for the banking industry. Yet somehow, Quakes fans wanted the Mercury News and other local media to support the team, as if that was their true function.
This is exactly what Hope Solo gets wrong, as well. It is not Brandi Chastain’s job, when she is working as an analyst during a soccer match at the Olympics, to “help grow the sport”. Chastain has plenty of venues for that kind of work, and, at least to this outsider, it seems like she works hard in that regard. But her job in the broadcast booth is to tell us what is going on. If she’s wrong about a particular defender, well then, she’s a poor analyst. But if she resorts to cheerleading, then she’s just as bad as all the other jingoistic announcers in all the countries participating in the Olympics.
As is often the case, Jennifer Doyle does a good job on this one (“Solo thoughtz”). While Doyle wasn’t all that happy with Chastain’s work during the match (“humorless … She sounds irritated with the game. She sounds annoyed. It just is not fun to listen to.”), she did point out the problem with at least some of Solo’s take. Conveniently for me, it’s the same problem I have: “A commentator is supposed to offer criticism of the match - Chastain is not being paid to be a cheerleader for the team (this is where Solo is wrong).”
Doyle concludes, “I love that we have players who are not totally controlled by the team's handlers.” I’m with her on that, 100%.