From Joy To Sorrow, and Now No “Hope” for Tomorrow for the USA Women’s Soccer Team

Hope Solo

This time, Hope was no help. In sports and in life, usually hope springs eternal and we fight to keep hope alive. But not in the 2016 Olympics for USA Women’s soccer. For Team USA, Hope Solo did not help the Soccer Sisters when they needed her help the most, and then things went from bad to worse after the whistle sounded.

For the first time in its distinguished history, the U.S. women’s soccer team has failed to advance to the semifinals of a major tournament.  The four-time Olympic gold medalists were upset by Sweden on penalty kicks, 4-3, following a 1-1 draw Friday at Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.

The top-ranked Americans had gotten past the quarterfinals in seven World Cups and earned no worse than silver in five previous Olympics. But on this day, Sweden, guided by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, prevailed in the tiebreaker to claim a semifinal slot against Brazil or Australia on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro. And when the game was over, the post-game propaganda war began.

After the game, Hope Solo was very unsportsmanlike as she downed the team and the coach that beat them in blunt terms:

“I thought that we played a courageous game,” she told reporters. “I thought we had many opportunities on goal. I think we showed a lot of heart. … But I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that.”

Asked to explain her criticism of the Swedes, Solo said: “They didn’t want to pass the ball. They didn’t want to play great soccer. It was a combative game, a physical game. Exactly what they wanted and exactly what their game plan was. … I don’t think they’re going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly. But they won. They’re moving on, and we’re going home.”

I have been a poor sport more than once, and you have too. And in case you’ve forgotten how to be a sourpuss and fussbudget and a cry baby, Hope Solo just gave us a rancid reminder. Hope showed us, once again, how to be a poor sport. And it’s a lesson we all need to take heed.

A poor sport is “a person who becomes unnecessarily emotional after being defeated at some sort of contest, regardless of the contests’ significance. Also could be described as a “cry baby.” 

And once again, I turn to Washington Post sports reporter Sally Jenkins to tell the story:

 RIO DE JANEIRO — “It’s called composure, and Hope Solo’s never been overburdened with a lot of that, or grace either. The U.S. women’s soccer team had their temperaments tested by a savvy, conservative Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals and lost. Solo has spent years undermining their collective equilibrium, and this one’s on her.

She’s a chronically rattled and rattling soul, the American goalkeeper. Let’s face it: For every shiny marketing moment and big victory she’s been a part of, she’s given the U.S. a nasty unwanted drama. The victories usually smoothed over her behavior. Not this time. This time she went pure loser and lout.

After giving up the winning penalty kick to Sweden, Solo called her opponents “a bunch of cowards” for their conservative game plan. Now, who is the real coward here? Solo gave up three regulation goals in the past two games, between a draw with Colombia and this loss. She tried to ice Lisa Dahlkvist on the final kick by changing her gloves, and then couldn’t lay a hand on the ball. And she couldn’t take responsibility for any of it; she could only lash out.

Sweden’s calculatedly frustrating game plan worked because the designer of that plan, Pia Sundhage, knew exactly whom she was dealing with, having coached the U.S. from 2008 to 2012. Told of Solo’s remarks in the postgame mixed zone, Sundhage said, “I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, and she’s going home.”

Hope Solo 2016 Olympics

Solo’s sore, hot-head remarks were personally aimed at Sundhage, who has made it clear just how much she had to put up with in Solo as the U.S. coach. There was always some trouble following Solo, stemming either from her irradiated blot-out-the-sun ego, or her temper.”

So let’s learn the lesson. Let’s learn how to win humbly and lose graciously, all the time.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016: “Let the Games Begin”

Rio_2016

How big a deal are the Olympics?  Big. Big, big. Big, big, big. Big deal. The Olympics are a really big deal. Under the best of civil circumstances, it’s no small feat to pull them off, and Brazil has had her fair share of challenges. Yet and still Brazil is getting these Olympics off the ground. That’s why I’m pulling for this impoverished and embattled nation and praying for them to win and win big. 

Many countries coming together under the banner of peace and harmony and goodwill is a genuinely good thing.  A manifold diversity of nationalities and ethnicities and cultures and customs gathering together at all is not a bad thing. So here’s to a safe, sensational, marvelous and memorable fortnight of games.

Harmony is of God. Peace and accord and unity and agreement under the banner of sports and sportsmanship can’t be bad; in fact it’s a very good thing. And so even if “religion” or faith is not a central theme or principal premise of the games, they are part and parcel of the Olympic spirit.

Amidst and amongst the multiple countries and the myriad of contestants, each and every athlete has the chance and the challenge of becoming a champion and winning gold. And winning, as we all know, is spiritual. Yes participating is an honor, but “you play to win the game. Hello!” Right? (Thanks Herman Edwards).

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wrote a poignant article about the games being in Rio. Here’s a sampling of what she said:

The Games have stressed a city already under stress; you can see that in the stoic faces waiting for the groaning city buses that aren’t permitted in the dedicated lanes and the angry protests that followed the torch. But by the eve of the Opening Ceremonies, it also was plain what a grand if teetering metropolis this is, with its eras stacked one top of another: imperial, colonial, belle epoque and modern.

This fact gives the Rio Games an atmosphere unlike any before: there is a mixed undercurrent here, a skeptical pride, a political roil and above all a juxtaposition of gorgeousness and want, existing side by side. These are an especially striated, bifurcated Olympics.

But I agree with this line from Sally; “Bringing the Olympics here was not a mistake despite the unfinished buildings and exposed pipes and sewer water.” Every athlete has a right to have a chance, and so do countries and nations. And this is Brazil’s chance.

rio-olympics-aug

This is the first Olympics in South America, the second poorest continent on the globe, behind Africa. And it is Biblical and spiritual that the poor and the lowly and the modest and the common man amongst us deserves to be raised up and built up and brought up to where they belong.

And this is the spiritual side of the Olympics.