Hope Solo is outspoken. Hope Solo does not like Brandi Chastain. This is not news.
What is news is an excerpt from Solo's book that appeared on espnW that furthers her contempt for Chastain and provides insights into her motivations. Solo has been on a media blitzkreig promoting the book doing the ESPN car wash today and having lengthy sitdowns with mainstream media outlets. But this espnW excerpt from the book's epilogue spotlights Solo and USA Soccer's most recent gold medal in London and the firestorm that emerged after Solo very publicly criticized Chastain on Twitter.
As suspected, it's not just Chastain's commentary that irked Hope Solo. The seeds of an old guard vs new guard rivalry within the USA women's soccer program is very present as well as hard feelings over Chastain's comments about Solo's positive drug test due to medication she was taking. Below are the highlights…
"More annoying was the feedback I heard from home and from fans on Twitter about the way the game was being broadcast on television. NBC had hired Brandi Chastain to do the color commentary on our games. She had been relentlessly negative during our qualifying matches, nitpicking little details and criticizing Pia's strategy…
I'm not looking for a cheerleader — far from it. We're all soccer junkies, and we hear a lot of expert commentary while we travel the world. I want the best of the best for our games, and I just don't feel that Brandi is very good at articulating the game. I love that ESPN added Ian Darke to their team for our World Cup, and I like Arlo White on NBC, but I feel that our networks too often take the easy way out: "Oh, let's hire Brandi. She's a world champion who took off her shirt, and people know her name. It doesn't really matter if she's a good analyst or not."
"Everything Brandi says seems to have a direct correlation to her playing days, so many years ago. "When I played with Carla Overbeck … " she will say again and again. I'm not sure that many of our new fans have any idea who Carla Overbeck was. It seems to be a continuation on that long-running theme: the '99 team would never give us our due or recognize how far the game had advanced or how much more athletically skilled our team was than theirs. They were clinging to their glory days and unwilling to recognize that times have changed. Most of us were sick of it."
"I knew that would get a reaction, but I felt that someone needed to stand up to Brandi. She had a microphone and an international platform. Why couldn't I voice my opinion? That's the beauty of social media.
When the tweets came across everyone's Twitter feed, the bus erupted with cheers.
"Hell yeah, Hope," my teammates cried. Christie Pearce Rampone and Abby Wambach and others offered up high fives. "Somebody finally said it," they said. It was a bonding moment for our team."
I can't say that I watched all of the Olympic qualifying matches, but "relentlessly negative" is a pretty strong depiction of Chastain's commentary. Honestly, the commentary that set off Solo on Twitter from the Olympics wasn't over the top at all. Chastain basically said a defender's first job is to defend and said Rachel Buehler could improve in that area. That was it. Really. If that kind of commentary is going to set off Solo and upset Buehler and the entire women's soccer program, then they better tune out every single thing ever written or said about them that isn't unconditional admiration and praise.
If Solo thinks Chastain is a poor commentator and not up to world class standards, that's fine. She's entitled to voice that opinion (as rare as it is for a star athlete to be publicly at odds with an analyst). If Solo thinks Chastain is making her living as an analyst through taking her shirt off in 1999, she's entitled to that refreshingly honest opinion as well. If Solo is still nursing her eardrums from Chastain SHOUTING FOR NO REASON FOR THE ENTIRETY OF EXTRA TIME DURING THE USA-CANADA SEMIFINAL then that's fine too. Brandi Chastain would be FAR from the first athlete to have a television career that wasn't judged on her quality as an analyst.
But to criticize Chastain for simply doing her job and saying a defender has to defend is a bridge too far. If Hope Solo and the USA team don't want anyone to ever say anything remotely criticial and they don't want a cheerleader in the booth, what exactly do they want from an analyst? To my last blogging day I'll defend any announcer's right and need to be critical, whether it be for their professional team, their country, or anybody.
But really, if you read between the lines, what this excerpt shows is that Solo's feelings towards Chastain isn't really about the quality of her commentary and how she can explain a 4-4-2 vs a 4-2-3-1. What this is about is a generational struggle within USA women's soccer and the current generation trying to break out of the prodigious shadow of the 1999 generation. Solo references the '99 team not giving the current bunch the respect they deserve and having it still be all about them. It wasn't the fact that Solo took Chastain to task over her announcing that brought cheers and high fives from her teammates and brought the team together in London. It was the fact that they as a group had finally broken free from the preceding generation.
Solo's criticism of Chastain's announcing was merely wagging the dog.