Good for them, right? Way to represent, ladies. Politely allowing the spotlight to shine on those bendy/flippy middle schoolers and those massive/swimmy high schoolers. Soon the spotlight will be yours again, and you can show the world what it means to be an American woman at the top of the sport the rest of the world likes to claim as its own.
It is against this backdrop that I want to pretend I work at ESPN. Come on, it'll be fun.
Now let's pretend I land a big interview with a big star from that big American women's soccer team. Team goalie Hope Solo, say.
This is Hope Solo. She's way more friendly-looking in person. Especially if she's been drinking.
So, I'm braiding her hair while she makes a big daisy chain, and I ask her. I say, "Hope, our viewers really want to know. What does it take to become a female athlete representing her country at the Olympics?"
She takes a slug of Gatorade, and she answers. She says, "Well, you've really got to be able to hold your liquor. Also, you need to be pretty horny, and into casual sex with other athletes. Finally, you need to be pretty thin-skinned and quick with on the Twitter trigger. A healthy amount of disrespect and dim perspective doesn't hurt, either."
I'm still new at the ESPN reporting gig, so I stutter a bit. Hope is WAYYYY off script. She was supposed to talk about hard work and pride and just loving the good old U. S. of A. like all those cute little gymnast robots. "Excuse me, Hope?," I manage to get out.
"Oh, you're right!" she responds. I exhale. She inhales and starts talking again. "You also need to go on Dancing With The Stars. Because that's the best vehicle for getting yourself into a position to have sex with Maksim Chemerovskiy. It is also another forum to display a bad attitude and be a poor loser."
I immediately end the interview, bang myself in the head with my rented soccer cleats for a few minutes, and curse myself for not having the guts to have interviewed that minx with the haughty stare, McKayla Maroney.
It was my own fault. I was too intimidated that McKayla was going to make fun of my stiff "criss-cross, applesauce" sitting position and then query "you're wearing thaaaat to interview me?" And I ignored the blazing warning signs hovering over Ms. Solo's head like the country names those poor gals dressed in disembodied heads had to carry during the opening ceremonies.
See the girl on the bottom right of this picture? Squint, then.
If you, like me pre-interview, haven't been paying close enough attention, let me fill you in on the busy Olympics Hope Solo has been having.
Just before the games started, word leaked that after their gold medal victory in Beijing, Hope and some other teammates showed up for a Today Show interview "still drunk" from the post-game victory celebration. This came as a surprise to everyone, except to the people who listened to the interview and heard Hope refer to the Olympics as the "World Cup" and watched her lip sync the words to "Living on A Prayer" while someone else was talking during the segment. (One of those things actually happened. The other thing is something I took literary license with. Your guess.)
Also before the games started, ESPN The Magazine published its interview with Hope (I was SCOOPED!). It expanded on the Today-Show-drunky-drunk story and gave details about Hope partying with actor Vince Vaughn after the team's gold-medal performance. It also shared Hope's story about sneaking a "celebrity" into the Beijing Olympic village, which I guess is a big no-no. It'd be like sneaking a shiv into a prison, if the shiv was a famous male you wanted to have sex with and the prison was a dorm for mostly-adults in phenomenal shape who blow off steam by doing sports between the sheets.
Since the clock has started running on the 2012 games, Hope has taken her class act to Twitter, where she has launched a series of attacks on Brandi Chastain. Brandi, you may recall, was part of the US women's soccer team that won the 1999 World Cup on penalty kicks. Brandi was the gal who made the last PK and took her shirt off in celebration. She and her teammates helped put American women's soccer on the map. And now Brandi is a commentator for other soccer matches. Including the ones at the Olympics where this generation of American soccer players is taking the field.
According to transcripts and video of the qualifying games Brandi has been an on-air analyst for, Brandi does things like point out when a defender misses the ball and wonder why the team isn't doing a better job of playing keep-away to run out the clock. Sometimes her "analysis" seems to be pure puffery, either because she's nervous and doesn't know what else to say, or because she needs to help fill 90 minutes during which a ball gets kicked around and sometimes goes into a big net. None of which really seems to distinguish her from any "analyst" in any sport.
I mean, think of all the times you've been watching football or basketball or baseball and Joe Buck or Al Michaels or Cris Collingsworth or Dick Vitale says something like "He should have had that ball!" or "He's really got to step it up and put the game on his shoulders" or "He's a diaper dandy!" You kind of just shake your head. Obviously he should have caught that --it's his job and it was thrown at his numbers. Obviously he needs to step it up--he hasn't scored yet. Obviously I'm disturbed you refer to an 18-year-old legal adult as a dandy in diapers. But you let it roll because that's how these guys talk and we all know they're just the background noise to the main event.
By and large, the athletes they're covering understand this as well. It probably drives them crazy that they've got all these people blabbing about all the things this athlete should and should not do, while they're shoveling popcorn and wearing blindingly ugly ties. But those athletes--those professionals--keep their mouths shut and their fingers quiet. Maybe they complain about a ref's call, but they don't make it a practice to complain about some drivel that some commentator let fly.
Unless, of course, that professional athlete is Hope Solo. She feels that Brandi is not loyal enough to Team America. She feels that Brandi should limit her commentary to "look at those girls run!" and "man....someone's getting lucky TO-NIGHT!!!"
So when Brandi has the gall to note that someone might have executed a certain play better, Hope fires up her Twitter account and fires off some nasty messages to Brandi. The not-so-subtle message Hope is sending is that Brandi is dumb. And old. I'm just waiting for the one where Hope calls Brandy ugly and maybe a little fat.
Which is great, Hope. Really, just great. Way to show all those little girls looking up to you what it means to be a strong, proud female athlete. Way to show those other countries the best America has to offer up. Way to show the Olympics that its "Faster, Stronger, Higher" motto is stale. That it should be changed to "Drunker, Sexier, Petty-er."
This mother sends you her thanks, Hope. I've got a whole new checklist for my daughter.
P.S. Have fun tonight! : )