When Hope Solo exploded onto the scene five years ago, she came almost perfectly pre-packaged for superstardom. These days, though, that package is showing signs of wear.
Solo has always had the talent, first and foremost, and she's wielded it at a world-class level for years.
As a goalkeeper, she plays a glamorous position that often lends itself to creating stars. And as an American, she comes from a place that gives her both a competitive advantage in the women's game and the opportunity to cross over into the mainstream.
The summer started well enough. Solo featured prominently in a steamy ESPN the Magazine exposé on Olympians and sex, and she managed to come off more likeable in the process.
During the Olympic tournament, she feuded with former teammate and current television analyst Brandi Chastain—a move that only seemed to generate more publicity for and more public interest in Team USA. After all, when was the last time SportsCenter featured women's soccer—and not match highlights, either—for nearly three minutes?
But after the high point of beating Japan, gaining redemption and claiming another gold medal, Solo has taken a turn to the bizarre and self-parodying.
It's all thanks to Solo's new book, Solo: A Memoir of Hope.
Among other allegations in the book, Solo charges that former U.S. coach Greg Ryan shoved her during the 2007 World Cup. As you may recall, that was the World Cup during which Solo reacted angrily over being left on the bench for the final.
Ryan has denied the allegations. From ESPN.com:
This allegation is completely false. I did not shove or push Hope as I've been accused in her book. I would have been terminated immediately by USA Soccer had this allegation been true. I have openly discussed the contents of the meeting and this is the first time that this accusation has been brought to light.
Those are strong words, and they stand up to basic reasoning. If Ryan really did shove Solo, it seems likely that somebody with the U.S. team would have reported Ryan for it.
If it did happen, it was a serious offense that Ryan should be disciplined for retroactively. But Solo's timing—with the Olympics over and no big international soccer matches coming up—casts doubt on the legitimacy of her words, especially considering the past history the two share.
In other words, are we to believe Solo kept all this bottled up while she was busy delivering her famous World Cup Final rant about the very same man?
Unfortunately, the questions over Solo's new book don't end there.
The memoir also charges professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy with rough treatment of Solo during their time as dance partners on the American television show Dancing With the Stars (via USA Today).
Like Ryan, Chmerkovskiy has denied the accusations. Unlike Ryan, he is threatening legal action, according to the Huffington Post.
That would be sad, and not by any fault of Chmerkovskiy's. If Solo's book contains false information about Chmerkovskiy, he would be well within his rights to sue the American soccer star.
But the saddest part is that it's come to this at all.
Solo is a two-time gold medalist and one of the best women's players on the planet. She is a breakout star who's been through her share of controversy but remains wildly popular. That should be enough.
But Solo continues to instigate and antagonize, starting new feuds with old friends and reheating quarrels long forgotten.
Look, I'm a Solo fan. She's a great keeper, and as a breakout cultural star, she's good for the game and its growth in America.
There's nothing wrong with Solo enjoying her celebrity, nothing wrong with her being herself or cashing in on her Olympic success. And there's nothing at all wrong with Solo being in the news for things other than soccer.
Even when this sort of stuff was going on during the Olympics, it was easy to look past it. Solo is that good.
But it's all becoming too much.
Hope Solo should seriously consider toning down her antics before she becomes a walking, talking parody of herself.
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