2011 Top Ten: Hope Solo

What? Out of everything that happened in entertainment this year — movies, media, books, anything and everything you can list — a single athlete cracks my top ten? Hell yes. Where have you been? Obviously not creepin’ as bad as I have. *shrugs* What can I say? I want to be Hope when I grow up? No. She’s not that older than me and I am wise enough to know she’s gone through a lot of pain to get where she is. I am not that bad ass.

I do wish I had a Hope Solo when I was a kid. I was a scrappy tomboy growing up. I played tackle football with the neighborhood boys. I insisted on being called “The Fridge” while we played even though I didn’t even watch football. I wanted to be associated with the greats of any sport. I even kicked around a soccer ball though soccer awareness was at like 1% saturation level in the late ’80s/early ’90s. I got one for my birthday so I was going to force people to play with me.

I just loved playing with whoever was at the park with whatever equipment they had. I “trained” like a pro even though I had nothing to train for. My dollar store watch had a stopwatch on it I was going to use it, dammit! I made my friends do tests of strength. I loved climbing to the top of anything and jumping off. I perfected the “tuck and roll”. I am breaking into a sweat thinking about it. I should not be alive. I came home with secret twisted ankles and have a collection of scars marked “gravel wipe out” “rock fight” “fight with dog.” I’d self medicate black eyes and split lips from catching an elbow wrestling. My guy friends would feel bad about that and help me put their mom’s makeup on to cover it up. Thank goodness no one ever walked in on that scene.

I got teased a lot, but being able to run faster and play harder than the boys more than made up for it. I might have gotten picked last for sports, after the boy called “Girl Fingers”, but the team I was on would win. I always made them pay. My earliest moment of embarrassment over this was when I was the only girl signed up for the Park District’s All-Sport Soccer Clinic where I was yet again picked last. Days in a row. The instructor, a women actually, noticed and finally gave the boys a talking to which was what really embarrassed me. What they did to me every day made me mad, but I was more than ok with destroying them on the field. Having her say it out loud made it shameful.

What I had in my head, keeping me sane, was the story of Michael Jordan having trouble making the varsity team in high school. Look what happened with him, I thought. If my sports hero overcame problems then I could too. Of course in the early 1990s I couldn’t have even named you a female athlete. Nancy Kerrigan was probably the closest I could get and I just thought she was really pretty. I didn’t consider her an athlete. (She was, I just didn’t see her as anything but pretty at the time… though now that I look at her wiki I probably should have liked her more. Anyone who gets labeled as “bitchy” for telling it as it is gets props from me.) My favorite female role model was Ellen Ripley and she only killed fake aliens. Thank goodness I at least had cable tv and irresponsible parents or I would have been lacking even that.

To me Hope’s kind of crazy lines up with the greats. She has some rough edges. Some setbacks in her career.  Despite being considered a kind of goalkeeper prodigy it took her years to embrace the position. It took years for her to crack the USWNT team. Her rise to the top was not a certain thing. She had to go overseas to get playing time early on. 2007 happened. She said something that wouldn’t receive a blink from the media if it came out of a male athlete, something completely true, and it almost ruined her career. She came back in 2008 and backed up all of her comments with a gold and a stunning block on a point-blank Marta hit. Vindication. She had to overcome a potentially career ending injury to get silver and the Golden Glove in the WC this year. She has plenty of haters by just being her unapologetic self. I say you aren’t doing it right if everyone loves you. Countless kids hated Michael Jordan in the 1990s and cried when he destroyed their hopes and dreams in the playoffs. Michael talked smack and backed it all up on the court. Being the ultimate cock-blocker your entire career is something people just have to respect.

Me? I finally found success and comradery in high school volleyball, but whenever I think of where I really developed my personality it always goes back to that solitary stretch of time where I felt like I was the only girl out there who had that kind of competitive spirit. The only girl in history as far as I could tell from my corner small town Midwest. I am pretty sure a girl with an awareness of sports today and the internet has a female athlete to look up to. Probably can pick from a long list. I don’t really relate to a lot of the female athletes out there still, but Hope matches up the closest to what I probably needed.

Jordan had the same swagger I borrowed from as a kid that Hope has now. She gives everything 100% all the time and is one of those people who will burn brighter than everyone else even if she ends up burning out because she just doesn’t have a low setting. She’s got a rough road ahead of her with her shoulder always going to be an issue, but I find it hard to bet against her. Not a surprise I’ve been amazed by her since 2007.


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