THE GOOD CHILD: a program enters murky waters for first time
After three-plus weeks of watching the US WNT compete in the Women’s World Cup, losing sleep, spending predawn mornings watching soccer from halfway around the globe, riffing on Hope and Solo witticisms – ok so my list is not going to stack up against Steve Goff’s, so let’s just stop here. Half-naked in silky French national team shorts is not territory I want this website to cover.
But whether you were in China, as Steve was, or sitting on a couch in the darkness of morning with the TV turned low so as to not wake up your roommates, it’s been a long strange trip through the WWC.
Maybe it was all just a dream…
f only it was that easy to explain away.
We went from I-can’t-find-a-game-story to front-page news… for all the wrong reasons.
The team USSF could historically always turn to for international success and “all the good things sport can be” is now at least ordinary. At worst, it’s an embarrassment. At best, the third place team in the world.
Thanks to a multi-dimensional meltdown the likes of which we’ve never seen in American soccer, the memory of Mia Hamm’s brilliance, Lilly’s stoic career, and OK fine Brandi Chastain’s sports bra are officially wiped from the nation’s collective memory, replaced with a sour-puss goal keeper, sour-grapes from teammates present and past, and a middling manager. No one seems to be able to muster the strength to be an adult. Not good for a sport who’s fan base is by-and-large adolescent girls with few other sporting role models.
Whether you want to focus on those atrocities of reason or on the fact that the entire tournament exposed the US WNT’s lackluster skills against competition that is now every bit the quality Americans are used to having a monopoly on, the fall from grace is complete. There will be no HBO documentary on this team. “Dare To Dream” is just a cheesy cliché now.
But a sports-talk subject? Now that’s a different story. This team is breaking records for coverage. In between the sad-but-obvious emotional female stereotypes spewing from (sexist?) voices and those saying this is great for U.S. women’s soccer, most of the attention is focused on the out-spoken testimony from former players, those hibernating cicada waiting for this very advantageous moment.
But then again, they have been around. And who else is going to give an educated opinion on women’s soccer? Hello? Anybody there?
late add: here’s one. And one of Graham Hays’ best pieces ever.
Ex-players are nothing new to the broadcast booth, but in a world where a competent women’s soccer analyst/announcer/reporter is basically non-existent, the players seem even more pervasive (persuasive?) in that role. This fact, coupled with the tight-knit friendships that occur in the women’s national team – no WUSA means the players are full-time professionals with the national team – created some, let’s say interesting commenting that has stoked and maintained the media fire.
Andrea Canales at Sideline Views and in her piece at Soccernet addressed some people’s (read: mine) feelings of shock in the way that Hope Solo has been so quickly ostracized from the team - there is talk that she isn’t even traveling home with the team among other things. Canales also brings up some old comments from Brianna Scurry that ring freshly familiar and delves a bit into why this has ballooned into such big news. Is there really any doubt as to why?
Of course Solo was wrong to say what she did, and no the fact that she said it at her most vulnerable, during an emotional post-game world cup breakdown/interview doesn’t excuse it away, but what kind of team, dare I say family, turns so quickly on one of their own? It makes you wonder what don’t we know of that relationship? Were people looking to cut out Solo prior to those sound bites?
Because what started this hubbub has happens on every sport’s team, albeit not in a World Cup on international television. Two wrongs don’t make a right, blah, blah, blah. Whatever, the entire team has now stooped to Solo’s level, and they’ve had the benefit of time and thought to make their mistakes of character.
Steve Goff on Brandi Chastain who criticized the team in the San Jose Mercury News:
“The author said Chastain’s criticism of Ryan “wasn’t sour grapes.” Oh really? Ryan cut Chastain from the team two years ago and Chastain’s husband, Santa Clara University Coach Jerry Smith, was passed over for the U.S. job in early 2005 when Ryan was promoted. …At every turn, this has been a sorry situation for U.S. soccer.”
Julie Foudy, without the bitter history of Chastain to involve her, was found in similar situations during the ESPN broadcast of the game and in later interviews.
Whether you agree with the former players or not, it highlights an interesting situation. The coverage is incestuous. Is there not an objective source outside of Dave O’brien to be found? Former players (and some injured-but-otherwise-roster-eligible players) as broadcasters and interview subjects have dominated the media attention. You can’t begin to try to understand the personal feelings, agendas, or objectivity that are going into what they say. It’s not bad – they should have an opinion, and I do want to hear it – but it leaves a murky taste, especially when the “family culture” is the subject and all of these women are strongly tied through friendship or otherwise to this team.
Now that the tournament is over, how will USSF handle it? Will the media continue to pay it attention? Will you?