Sunday, September 30, 2007

The positive negative?

I didn't see the third place match between the US and Norway this morning but I saw, during halftime of the championship (won by Germany, the first repeat victory in women's world cup history), that Brianna Scurry was in goal for the US. Not that surprising. I suspected she might be "punished" for speaking out against the decision to replace her in the semis and her obvious diss of Scurry.
But then I read that not only was Solo not starting--again--she had been booted from the team. She was not at the game today or yesterday's practice, a move made by Ryan but supported by the team. Ryan has hinted that reconciliation may be possible but Solo's future still remains unclear.
Blogger Megan McArdle has a good post about what kind of message is being sent by such punishment. McArdle argues that this belief that everyone has to be friends to be successful is something embraced by women's teams.
I'm not exactly ready to applaud anyone who caters to either the stereotype that women can't function unless they're all holding each other's hands and singing, or the reality that groups of women generally do demand a level of comity and conformity that can be incredibly brutal on anyone who is too outspoken or otherwise violates the group norms.
I don't know if I agree with McArdle's assessment of the group dynamics of women. And of course no one really knows how Solo's comments would have been received if she was a male athlete.
What we do know is that, for whatever reason, her actions were clearly a foul for this team. We don't know how the other teams operate. Perhaps there isn't the stress on harmonious intrateam relationships on other national teams. Maybe they just come and play. But the US team has clearly established a dynamic they feel works for them. So it's either conform or go home. Solo has gone home. For how long we do not know. She apologized to the team in person and on her My Space page where she specifically apologized to Scurry though in one of those weird backhanded ways that still suggests Scurry is not qualified for the position and that Solo does not feel she did anything truly wrong.
Also up in the air is whether Ryan will be going home with his job. Not if Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain have anything to say about it. They don't have any official power of course, but they did not hold back in their assessment of Ryan's performance in preparation for and during this World Cup.
But back to the title of this post which is meant to stimulate some thought about the effects of all this drama. It will be unfortunate if this situation is presented solely as a cat fight--just some women having it out--especially if it takes away from Ryan's poor coaching. But nothing draws a crowd like a cat fight. Have more people tuned in because of the drama? Will they turn out for the team's pre-Olympic tour? Or for WUSAII in 2009?
But do we even want such "fans"? I guess I still hold out a little bit of hope that once people tune in they'll get turned on to the sport, no matter why they showed up in the first place. It's naive, I know.

10/1 UPDATE: Get out of my head, Philip Hersh. Well Hersh's take on the "soap opera" (I knew a pejorative phrase like this was bound to be applied to this situation) on the US National Team is not exactly the same as my own. He does not problematize the fact that people are only coming to watch because of the drama and that these fans may not last long. USA Today has also trotted out "soap opera" in its coverage of Solo's team suspension noting all the coverage in the media and on blogs that the situation garnered. I'd just like to note that some of us have been blogging about the World Cup since it began noting the then big stories like England's surprise success in the tournament and the rise in the level of international play.


sportsbabel said...

One of the problems in this case is Solo's lack of options. A professional athlete can lobby for a trade or at the least wait for free agency; a college athlete may always transfer to another school. But one cannot just switch nationalities and go play for another country. Ryan holds an inordinate amount of power in this situation.

ken said...

I was thinking the same, Sean. I assume she doesn't have a parent with non-US citizenship. She could head north and play for you all if you'll have her. Not sure what your keeper situation is in Canada. Athletes have been known to just switch nationalities after all. (Tanith Belbin last Olympics. Of course she didn't give up her Canadian citizenship. She just added US.)
I am assuming, however, that Solo will get a spot on one of the new professional teams in 2009. But that seems a long way away, especially with the Olympics as a major event in the interim.