Flying Solo: What Hope Solo's latest suspension really means
By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network
They say you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper.
I would know: I've been playing the position on both the soccer and lacrosse fields since I was seven years old.
When they say "crazy," they're not just talking about willingly subjecting oneself to blows to the head or the kamikaze-style takedowns of oncoming players. You've got to constantly be in the game -- even when all the action is on the other end of the field. You've got to constantly be talking to your teammates, whether they're on the opposite side of the pitch or lining up for a free kick on net. You've got to stalk from left to right within your fiefdom of an 18-yard box, mindlessly following the action even if you're not directly involved in the play.
You've got to be comfortable with being alone. Training alone -- your warm-up routine can't be the same as the strikers or midfielders. Being alone for the majority of a match -- until the game is on the line and your ability to make or not make a save determines the outcome.
You've got to be mentally focused at all times, on and off the field.
And throughout her professional career, Hope Solo has struggled to remain focused.
When I say this, I say this with the utmost respect for someone who is undeniably one of the greatest goalkeepers -- male or female -- to walk the planet. On the pitch, and when she is focused, there is no one better.
As mentioned, you've got to be crazy to be a keeper. Emotional outbursts on the field can be accepted because, well, the pressure and isolation placed on a goalie's playing career inevitably causes such internal passion that it has to escape at one point or another. I've done it, Hope's done it, heck, former Coventry City keeper David Icke went on after his playing career to become a conspiracy theorist.
But "crazy" is no longer an excuse for Hope Solo.
Solo was not on vacation or in the midst of the offseason when she and husband Jerramay Stevens were pulled over for a DUI in Manhattan Beach, California last week -- not that either is a legitimate excuse. She was in California for national team camp. She was, although not the driver, in a U.S. Soccer owned vehicle, and I doubt Coach Jill Ellis gave Stevens the keys.
At a time when Solo should have been focused -- let alone asleep in bed, as she had work the next morning -- she was not. And at age 33 and having played with the national team since 2000, there's no room for excuses.
During this 30-day suspension, according to espnW's (and former U.S. Soccer captain) Julie Foudy, Solo will be required to meet with the team a certain number of times to remain in good standing to rejoin after the suspension. If I was Ellis, currently amidst her first season as the permanent head coach of the storied program, I wouldn't be requiring Solo to simply "show up" to earn her spot back.
Regardless of how talented on the field she is, Solo is a leader and one of (if not the) undisputed faces of women's soccer in the United States. Going to a couple meetings will not change the recklessness of her actions over the last eight years (for those not keeping score, Solo: was arrested for two misdemeanor counts of assault in June, was involved in an investigation of assault along with Stevens the day before their wedding, and blasted former U.S. National Team coach Greg Ryan in an interview after he benched her at the 2007 World Cup).
I have read Solo's autobiography. Her life has never been an easy one; her parents divorced when she was six and her father allegedly kidnapped her at age seven. She herself described her home in her memoir as "a battlefield, a war zone of screaming, swearing, and disrespect." The "craziness" of Solo's life began before she took to the net and it was not her fault. But that's not the environment Ellis and the U.S. National Team should perpetuate and foster. She may be 33 years old, but it is time someone teaches Solo how to truly focus.
Many have countered this argument and with good reason. espnW's Kate Fagan raises the excellent point that, just because she doesn't fit "the mold" of what society expects of its female, professional athletes, a complex figure like Solo can't be entirely dismissed. She -- and Golden Globe-winning actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who Fagan references -- are entirely right. Real women are not perfect. But real women surrounded by other strong, real women need someone to keep them in check and humble. It's now in the hands of Ellis to do just that, and she's taken the right step.
Hope Solo is undoubtedly one of the most complex athletes of her time. If he had stuck around the NFL, surely her husband Jerramy Stevens would also be high up on that list. As the last year of professional sports has proven, though, athletes cannot be the exception to reckless behavior, especially if they are to be true "role models" for our children. I applaud Ellis' suspension and Solo's response: "I think it's best for me to take a break."
Mia O'Brien is a senior at Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, where basically everyone calls her "Mobrien." She's a fan of country music, a good debate, and French dressing -- in no particular order. For sports updates, random musings, and many a creative hashtag, follow her on Twitter: @OBSportsLive16