U.S. women's soccer coach Greg Ryan has pulled off quite a hat trick. His boneheaded decision to bench young goalkeeper Hope Solo for veteran Briana Scurry torpedoed the United States' bid for a third World Cup, ruined Scurry's legacy and created an unnecessary controversy.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Will Solo reconcile with U.S. coach Greg Ryan? We'll see.
By now, you probably have heard Solo's extremely candid remarks following Brazil's 4-0 victory over the United States on Thursday. Solo -- an appropriate name under the circumstances -- buried her coach and Scurry about as badly as Brazil star striker Marta did.
"There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves," Solo said. "And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore. It's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago."
What I can't understand is why so many people consider Solo's remarks refreshing and brave, instead of selfish and counterproductive.
The first red flag was that Solo immediately pointed out she "would have made those saves." Translation: It's all about me.
If Solo wants to go after Ryan, fine. He deserves it. Starting Scurry -- who hadn't logged a single minute of playing time in China -- over Solo -- who hadn't given up a goal in 300 minutes -- was a mind-numbingly bad decision that should cost him at least his credibility, if not his job.
But that still doesn't give Solo the right to take the low road. She ran over Scurry like a two-ton semi. And Scurry has done a lot more for the U.S. team than Solo has.
Scurry has two gold medals and a World Cup championship. And she did not appoint herself the starting goalie against Brazil -- Ryan did. It's his job to know the strengths and weaknesses of his players. It's his job to make tactical moves that put the U.S. in the best position to win. And he failed on both of those accounts, even though it could be argued Brazil would have been the stronger team no matter who was in goal.
I must say, I can't help but wonder if we would view Solo's postgame tirade differently if she were a man. Or if she were less attractive. If a male athlete said what Solo said -- no matter if it were true or not -- I doubt so many people would be so understanding.
Look at the flak Terrell Owens caught when he accused Donovan McNabb of not being ready to play in the Super Bowl. Even though McNabb reportedly vomited in the huddle -- which some characterized as a sign of being frightened by the big stage -- few dared admit Owens might have been right.
When Alex Rodriguez finally admitted this spring that he and Derek Jeter were not exactly bosom buddies anymore, many criticized Rodriguez for bringing an unnecessary distraction to the Yankees clubhouse, even though he also was being truthful.
And look at how many people took shots at Tiki Barber for his provocative remarks about Eli Manning, for claiming Manning wasn't a leader? Given Manning's play the past couple of seasons, that was a legitimate assessment. As an NFL analyst, Barber is paid to give his honest opinion, but this insight into Manning's weaknesses was treated like treachery.
If Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is considered unprofessional for the way he blistered Daily Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson, why isn't Solo? Remember, a lot of people think Gundy was telling the truth, too.
We all can agree Ryan failed his team. But Solo's attacking her teammate was cheap, not brave. We can only imagine what kind of emotional state the Americans are in heading into their third-place game against Norway on Sunday. After such a crushing loss to Brazil, the last thing the U.S. needed was a potentially combustible locker room situation. Who knows what kind of chill this will bring to Solo's relationship with Scurry (if there was one) or how this might impact the other members of the national team?
Solo's act just proves you can be right, and wrong, at the same time.
Page 2 columnist Jemele Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.