Saturday, July 28, 2012

Solo thoughtz

If you aren't following Hope Solo's twitter feed, do.
Today's tweets were in response to Brandi Chastain's remarks during the US game against Colombia. At about 18 minutes, Chastain disparaged defender Rachel Buehler's ball control. She said that Buehler gives the ball away too much, and "needs to work on an improve on" her trapping skills. The problem is not exactly what she said. What defender doesn't need to work on, improve on her game? The problem is the way Chastain said it - these remarks were part of a constant stream of negative commentary about the US's game. There was, in fact, so much criticism of the USWNT that there was hardly any real discussion of their opponent. A commentator is supposed to offer criticism of the match - Chastain is not being paid to be a cheerleader for the team (this is where Solo is wrong). But criticism should be even handed. What did we learn today about Colombia? Not nearly enough.

I've been hesitant to criticize Chastain - like a lot of people, I admire what she's done for the game in this country. (She was delightful in an interview I did with her a couple years ago.) I also like having a defender's perspective in the mix. Personally, I always want more attention to the game's dark arts.

For me, the real problem with Chastain's commentary is that it is humorless. That's why the criticism she doles out for 90 minutes can feel so grating. She sounds irritated with the game. She sounds annoyed. It just is not fun to listen to.

Supporting the sport doesn't mean going easy on teams - quite the opposite. Informed, detailed, animated analysis of the game makes everyone watching it smarter. Passionate narration of the action gets everyone more involved in the broadcast. In an interview about his earliest memories of soccer, Zidane recalled not the action, but the commentator's voice - he remembered being pulled to the television by his voice. The sound of a person totally interested in and excited by a game.

The shocking thing here is not that Solo had something to say about how Chastain calls matches. It's that she let loose about an NBC commentator and former US national team player on Twitter, right after a game. Someone wound her up. This leaves us with some interesting questions:
  • How did she find out about that segment of the broadcast? (These tweets were sent right after the match finished.)
  • Who let her have a phone? (She's infamous for what she's capable of saying right after a match finishes.)
  • What was it about that remark about Buehler that got Solo mad, with so many other similar moments to choose from? 
Anyway, I love that we have players who are not totally controlled by the team's handlers.  Or maybe they are. Maybe this is all about stirring the pot, keeping the women in the news, and using the ancient trope of the cat fight to do so.


  1. Chastain sounds like a coach picking apart game film looking for problem areas. That's okay to an extent, but she does it nonstop for 90 minutes.

  2. Non-stop. There are other former player/coaches doing commentary out there - Lucy Ward, for instance. Ward will put me in stitches she can be so funny.

  3. I like the adjective 'humorless' - I felt she was dull, and that she was being inflicted upon me. Hope's tweet about viewing the match on mute certainly struck a chord, though something like a vuvuzela-cancelling program for the commentary would probably be better. I watched most of the game without knowing it was Chastain, somehow - if I had, I think my reaction would have been dutiful, respectful, dishonest.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. I think you're the first one to actually address what Brandi does as a commentator. Listening to her broadcasts versus Kate Markgraf's is like night and day. Kate actually sounds like she's enjoying the matches, and while she doesn't shy away from criticism, it is far more balanced. Granted, Brandi's getting USWNT games to call, which means that the analysis will primarily be on the US (even if there's not a huge amount of new ground to cover every game).

    Kate, Cat Whitehill, and Angela Hucles also bring in their personal experience in a far more viewer-friendly way. I tend to get frustrated with Brandi when she mentions her time with the NT, because so much of it is focused on the '99 team and then the (constant) "When I coach little girls now..." whereas Kate, Cat, and Angela are far more likely to bring up WUSA/WPS/foreign league experience.

    Brandi doesn't have a responsibility to the game, but WoSo is in a very delicate position right now. Between leagues, Horan's off signing with PSG for a ton of money, etc. Ignoring the Brandi effect on dedicated fans who will watch regardless, what casual viewer tuning in will want to pursue watching WoSo on a club level if it's 90 minutes of clinical, detached criticism about one of the best teams in the world?

    I think a lot of people are forgetting you can separate Brandi the '99 superstar from Brandi the commentator. You can celebrate her achievements while still thinking that her commentary is lacking - but so far I have yet to see that in a very black and white Hope vs. Brandi argument presented on the internet so far. (Perhaps most interesting? For a solid hour in the USWNT vs PRK, Brandi remained remarkably positive, commenting many of the players she tore a new one on Saturday. She backslid a little toward the end, but overall, it was a much more enjoyable game to listen to - she still made her points, but she was able to put them in an overall context of what they do right as well.)

    This comment got super long, and I apologize.

  6. This is the blog for long comments! I also thought she was much more interesting on the PRK match. Just goes to show, you can offer the criticism but frame it in a way that makes it sound more like a reading than a complaint. There was also less "should have."

    What bugs me about the way this story was reported is how much that shows the way people lower the bar on the women's game - which is not what any fan wants. Come down on Solo for being tactless. But also engage the loads of criticism of Chastain's match commentary. I put on Lucy Wards/BBC so I could hear English media on Team GB. Ward laughs a lot, she gets really emotional without losing composure. And she speaks to these other league experiences - I'm not sure the networks understand how much fans - new and old - appreciate learning about the bigger picture. She's got a nice voice, too.

  7. This new magazine looks good. They need you, though.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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