There has been a lot of discussion in the sports world over what Hope Solo’s book is about. Why she wrote it. Much of it negative. Discussion might be too strong of a word considering many of the people talking the loudest don’t seem to have read her book at all. I am looking at you espnW. Do they really not care to learn more about the woman they keep writing articles about? When journalism as we know it finally breathes its last I’m going to propose “self inflicted wounds” as the cause of death.
What is her book about though? It isn’t a tell-all about Dancing with the Stars. Sorry reality tv fans. You get just a chapter in the back. It also isn’t a book that is going to bring the USWNT down to its knees. The part about the 2007 debacle is what we all knew anyway. The bones of it at least. Only now fleshed out with her POV. 2007 is an inescapable part of her life so of course it would be included in her bio. There is nothing malicious about it. It is just part of her life.
By the 2008 Olympics, most of the major players in the plot got taken out by an aggressive case of bad karma anyway. In the long term, the remaining people worked really hard to grow up like in the case of Rampone, Tina, and Abby. As it is written the important people get a resolution in the book as in life. That’s quite a bit more peace than the media ever given her on the subject for example.
What is it about if not those two things the media keeps going on and on about?
To me it’s a book about someone who chooses to be happy. Who chooses that over and over again despite all evidence in life that happiness just isn’t in the cards for some people. You have to fight for it and continue to fight and you have to be ready to treasure the smallest shard that comes your way.
The two major figures in the book, Hope and her father, both came to that resolve during different stages of their lives. That isn’t to say it is some kind of moralistic story full of lessons or whatnot. Well, maybe if you are a fan of grace through fire Flannery O’Connor Southern gothic style. Pacific Northwest gothic? Twin Peaks? David Lynch can direct her movie. Someone, make this happen! Ok, back on topic.
Choosing happiness leaves her open for more hurt, often by people who should know better, but that choice can also be an act of defiance. Her father. Her mother. Family love tinged with the effects alcoholism and grifting. Always a battle between the two. More than once she seemed to be afraid the worst parts of her own personality were legacies of that. Would she be lost in the woods for as long as her parents were? Take soccer away and what would be left?
She is amazingly optimistic just by continuously trying for her dreams despite what the universe seemed to be telling her. It all goes back to what her grandmother would often say:
Don’t let the devil steal your joy.
Thoughts on the rest of the book under the cut, semi-related (or not) ramblings about introverts, and uneducated speculation. Best if you’ve read her book first. Maybe had a glass of Walgreens wine too. | Amazon/B&N
A Good Man is Hard to Find
“Don’t act like you were a part of this, Mr. Potter,” I said. I wasn’t going to be a phony just to let him feel important.
Hope forgives people for a lot of things that I would have found hard to forgive. There are a few footnotes to that. If you are in her inner circle of friendship you have endless forgiveness afforded to you. Baffling amounts. She has a long memory for transgressions too though. Pity if you forget for one second which side you’ve been on all along. She has an elephant’s memory for certain things. That’s not to say things can’t be mended as we have examples of that too.
More than once I wanted to insert myself into the book and chew out a few people. I know you only get one family and when you have that much history you are each other’s only true confidants. You carry the family lore together. Still — Don’t hit her! Primarily her brother who was always bigger than her no matter who started what. If you are twenty-six and hiding under your own table because you think your brother is going to really do you in finally something is seriously wrong! Beyond the norm.
She admits as much a few times, but there was always a hint she was holding back on some of that story. She is reluctant to judge because she’s been judged so often herself. Still, the people who should be there for her the most are also the people that can hurt her the most. That is true with any family I guess but when it is taken to such extremes it is so hard to read about passively and not want to yank her safely out of her own narrative.
But even the wins on the field, the growing success, couldn’t overcome my fatalism. The sense that life was beyond my control.
Maybe compartmentalizing and excuse making for family behavior are better than the family falling apart and being truly alone. Introverts such as herself like being alone but don’t like being cut off from the larger narrative of their life and family is life. Family doesn’t have to be perfect to be important and they are part of her life story for better or worse. You could call it turning a blind eye, but I got the sense she did see all the bad bits too. They bothered her.
Her father’s story is an example of her ability to balance that duality. She chose to love her father. Considering how many people gave up on him or kept him at arms length because they couldn’t deal with him anymore it definitely was a choice. He was a man who was going to be forever tied to her, but who at the same time was a criminal and hurt many many people including her over the years. She had to find a way of making it work. She had to decide to maximize the good and not be judge and jury over the bad. That wasn’t her job. If she took that job up she’d no longer be a daughter which is the relationship she wanted. In the end she was daughter, friend, and his lone next of kin despite being the youngest child.
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. – Flannery O’Connor
All of that was why it was so traumatic for her dad to pass when he did. She was finally at the age she could minimize damage from his behavior while maximizing whatever relationship they could have. When she was younger she was getting damaged a lot. Now she had autonomy and he was finally getting help for his problems…and then his story abruptly ended and answers for a life full of questions would never come.
“[Introverts] may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.” Susan Cain, Quiet
This book is a good map for those trying to navigate as an introvert in group dynamics. A sorta “here be monsters” kind of map. I’m an introvert and I winced more than once at what I read because I could see where things were going.
- Keeping thoughts to ourselves until we burst. Often we catch people off guard with the intensity of our feelings. Introverts come off sounding cocky because we usually have spent a long time working something around in our minds before we talk. We are extremely passionate about what we speak out about and will stay quiet until we are ready to talk. If we sense you haven’t spent a similar amount of time developing your thoughts on it we will likely not respect your opinions. Sorry. Say something halfassed or ill informed or dumb about something we find important (like soccer, ahem) and we might forever think you are an idiot. Hope does this a lot. Waits to talk until she’s thought something out or feels she must talk. Speaks with the authority of someone who has given it much thought. Doesn’t suffer a fool.
- Collecting a small circle of friends. Introverts make the best and most loyal friend. To us extrovert friendships seem shallow because we literally collect people, subscribe to someone for life. How can you dedicate yourself to that many people? Hope’s favorite people seem like quality. Carli was perhaps the only one on the team with that standing, but it’s been nice to see the kids on the team embrace her and of course the back of the bus gang. I’m not surprised she said she has felt the closest to this team.
“Hope, you’re not what I expected,” Aya told me. “The players on the Sol described you in a way that doesn’t match how you really are.”
- The need to be alone to recharge. All the group stuff that extroverts get energy from drains an introvert. It isn’t an effort thing. It is different wiring. Don’t let us recharge and you are lighting a fuse even we don’t know the length of. We’ll be just as surprised as you when it blows. Let us have our alone time! Not surprised Hope sits at the back of the bus, likes to read, hangs out in her room a lot, tv marathons (great for relaxing), and otherwise does introvert maintenance. Hope is great at appearing an extrovert with all of the media, but it comes with a price.
- Inability to see or value certain traditions and social cues. Adult introverts still have problems with this. Over time we often learn to accept what we don’t feel/understand as it is easier to just go for the sake of harmony (how I experience traditional weddings…ugh) but sucking it up is still different than agreeing. Hope doesn’t see why people want her to pay eternal homage to the ’99ers. I don’t either to be honest. She thought of them as coworkers when they played together, not demigods. Now that they are all retired she has even less connection. She didn’t dream of being in their shoes when she grew up. She dreamed of competing against them and as any good goalkeeper would — taking over their spot! Goalkeepers perform a hostile takeover to get that one starting spot. Whenever people try to force her to assume a relationship with them she balks. I’m not surprised.
- Gang up on an introvert and our reaction will not be what you expect. You can’t force emotions out of us. We get overwhelmed by group dynamics and can’t read the room well. Peer pressure doesn’t work. We just put walls up and die a quiet, tortured death inside if we can’t escape. Our reactions will be strong but only privately or with one of our inner circle. You may see some leak out around the edges, but it won’t be what you’re trying to get out of us. It will be frustration and pain and even anger at being prodded so much. If you lose our respect it will be extra hard to resolve things. We might just be secretly waiting you out. It could take years, but we can out last you. If you push us too far we might just have a meltdown and that can be something we don’t recover from. Witnessing an introvert having a meltdown…scary.
Hope was lost in a maze of social rules represented in the locker room. The team was similarly blind to what makes an introvert tick to the point they almost destroyed someone. The punishments, ganging up on her, moving the measuring stick on reconciliation, trying to force a reaction from her… none of that works with an introvert.
When an introvert is at their most vulnerable they are not going to suddenly open up their feelings to a group, in this case a hostile group, even if the group is trying to rip it out of them. Hope was in a meltdown because of what her team did to her combined with the events of the year. I was having second hand trauma just reading it. The signs were all there. Evacuate the building! Hope may have been, but I’m not surprised they had that lady watching her. What they did to her must have been scary from the outside point of view too.
“Fake it ’til you make it,” she said. “Keep smiling.”
I wanted to say “Stop! You’re hurting her worse than you think!” but then I realized they were trying to hurt her. Especially at the end where they were trying to force her to quit and go away. I can only shake my head. I am so amazed she survived that, has her career, and her smile still. I’ve had only a fraction of that kind of the thing happen to me and I still feel like the walking wounded.
The Devil’s Dance Floor
Pressed against her face
I could feel her insecurity
Her mother’d been a drunk
And her father was obscurity
But nothin’ ever came
From a life that was a simple one
So pull yourself together girl
And have a little fun
– The Devil’s Dance Floor by Flogging Molly
People who are complaining about her experience with Maks on Dancing With the Stars must have not read her whole book. Hope didn’t spare anyone. Friend, foe or herself. Think his stuff is unflattering? Well, hitting someone and being verbally abusive would be hard to make flattering and that was her experience. “Repositioning” her head by way of an ear ringing slap is inexcusable. Insulting her appearance is inexcusable. He wasn’t a good teammate, a good partner, or even a good “asshole coach” by anyone standards. Even the networks as they were disturbed enough to write up documents and cover their butts over what happened.
He’s just lucky that unlike with most people who get whapped upside the head or find a hand print on themselves hours later that’s not the worst thing that happened to her that year or ten years even. He and the show could have had half a book dedicated to them easily if Hope was a different person, but instead it was just part of one chapter. The appropriate length dedicated to people of their “importance” in her eventful life.
For me the most telling part of that chapter was how aware she had to be of the cameras and ABC’s editing job. Normally when you are hit you’d fight back, react, but she had to make both short term and long term decisions about herself based on the fact they could, and would, distort reality at her expense. Should she defend herself against Maks as instincts dictated? Should she rightfully have him fired?
I viewed him as my coach, and I’d had asshole coaches before. I could tough it out.
She couldn’t chose what was logically the best for her since logic had gone out the window. What made sense at the time, toughing it out, weighing the camera and long term harm ABC could inflict over the short term abuse with Maks, is probably something hard for her to even reconcile now that she is safely away from it and can reflect. Had she not been isolated and on the road as much as she was with him early on, had it not taken her until that unfortunate Halloween group dance for her to realize this wasn’t normal behavior, I wonder if he would have gotten away with it as long as he did. If someone had seen and stepped in earlier perhaps it wouldn’t have have escalated as it had.
I could see the shocked looks on the faces of the other dancers. So maybe this isn’t normal behavior, I thought.
DWTS typically enjoys an air of secrecy behind the scenes, but they went too far this time and Hope isn’t their typical celebrity. She isn’t dependent on them and their kind. This chapter isn’t typical for her book either. She didn’t add much hopeful commentary to it. No reassuring touchstones like she has with her family, Tina, or Abby for example where you know she cares about them and there are bread crumbs leading you through the worst parts and out the other side. There is no, “Maks and I lived happily ever after.” She made the best of a bad situation, but never forgot what actually went down. She washed her hands of that mess along with the spray tan and fake eyelashes.
Happily Ever After?
There were a few other big reveals for fans along the way. Learning how drugged up and a mess she got with her shoulder recovery is one of them. I knew it had been down to the wire getting her back in time for the World Cup, but I didn’t know how down to the wire it really was, how much went into keeping her going through rehab and recovery after the games even during the tournament, how bad she reacted to the medicine. Another shocker is coming to like Adrian. Plot twist, huh? He always came across as a tag-a-long and more than a little odd in the couple of short videos seen of him over the years, but he seems like a decent guy as portrayed in her book in a universe in need of more decent guys. I was #teamJesse, but I guess Adrian will do.
The biggest revelation at least to this fan is learning how much the drama does wear on her. She’s a good introvert and puts up a front of not being bothered. I do the same exact thing and I know it works as most of the time I’m actually not bothered at all. I have a very short list of people I let judge me. Everyone else I try to ignore because they don’t know me and what qualifies them to judge anyway? She’s still human though. No one is immune to criticism completely.
I was able to keep my focus in training, which was going very well, but off the field, it was too much. One night, I broke down in tears. But after that I adopted my old attitude: f–k it. I’m not here to please people. People are going to think what they want to think about me. I’ve given my life to this sport, and I am going to work hard with my team and enjoy this incredible moment. I was not going to let the devil steal my joy. – Harper Collins Olympic addition
Maybe that’s why people seem so insistent in attacking her as pointedly as they do. They feel like she is superhuman and there isn’t much there to hit. Might as well hit hard then. They misjudge her motivations and reactions because they don’t understand that having a strong front doesn’t mean there isn’t anything there to hit. Or maybe they are just plain mean and spiteful. Never rule that out. I’m really mad people have made her cry. That’s what happens when you treat a normal person like they are a rock star with walls of money and people between them and the onslaught of media.
Often these bigger than life stars are seen as fair game when to me Hope never came off as the rich, inaccessible, out of touch athlete. She’s still the same dorky goalkeeper she’s always been even with the jump in fame. She’s got the same friends, lives near her family, has a normal looking boyfriend, is really available to fans, travels without an entourage, still very much a normal person. She speaks her mind and I actually like to hear what she thinks. She’s a truth talker even if the truth happens to be inconvenient. Maybe the media can sense some of that because they just can’t stay away. They insult her and then want her on their show. They tell her to shut up and go away, and then bankroll a month of articles on her. Looking at you again espnW.