I've had over a day to sit on this story because of other obligations. This has meant that the highly acerbic tone laced with expletives that I was going to use yesterday has been slightly tempered by time.
I'm still a little irked by ESPNW though. I really haven't seen anything to like about this endeavor yet. Shouldn't we be shooting for more than just mere visibility?
Anyway, what got me all hot and bothered (and not in a good way) yesterday was this article about the different paths Hope Solo and Abby Wambach have taken post World Cup.
In case you haven't heard, Hope Solo is on Dancing with the Stars this season. She was also on (one of) the cover of ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue a few weeks ago. She is racking up endorsements (worth millions of dollars)--and turning down offers for photo shoots in men's magazines. In other words, she's making the most of this (likely) brief spike in the popularity of women's soccer. (Let's note, for the record, that Solo pursued her spot on DWTS. Her agent "mined his contacts at ABC" to get her on the show.)
Her success in doing so is not surprising according to a UMaryland consumer psychologist. Dr. Stephen McDaniel:
"Think how unique Hope Solo is. She's very telegenic, she's attractive, she's successful; she's the kind of person that can translate into a personality."
And what's up with Wambach?
Well here is an assessment of the differences between the two from the president of a company that pairs celebrity endorsers with companies:
"Every time you see Hope Solo, she's pumping her fist and clapping her hands and she's got a really great demeanor and a great smile and everything about it is positive. That's not to say the same thing about Abby. I can't really say where Abby is. Abby is not unattractive, but I don't know what she wants to do."
Yes, what is it about Wambach? Not unattractive, but....
Oh, yeah. She's gay.
Is she out like Natasha Kai? No. But it's not a secret either. She's not trying to pass as straight.
And she's not clamoring after endorsements like Solo because, according to observers, experts, and Wamabch herself, it just isn't her style. She's more quiet. She's more behind the scenes. (And she's doing good stuff too trying to promote the game.)
She also can't sell heterosexy like Solo. But no one will say that aloud.
So where's the space for someone like Wambach? She can sell lesbosexy. (Check out the comments on photos of her.)
But the woman saved the USWNT from an early exit in the World Cup. She was in a scoring drought and pushed through it and then came through big with the US needed it.
But there's little space for a strong, successful female athlete is not heterosexual (or who does not pass as heterosexual).
Yes, Wambach has been with Nike for almost 10 years now. She endorses Gatorade and both she and Solo are recently signed with Bank of America. (Really, Abby and Hope? You thought signing with one of the most maligned banks in the country right now was a good idea?)
But these different paths they allegedly chose are not necessarily all about free will or radically different personalities. Look at them on the field: they are both clapping their hands actually--they are both intense. They pump up their team not in pleasant Mia Hamm way, but in "let's get our butts in gear" (that's the polite version) kind of way. Neither smiles a whole lot during the game. And let's note that Solo's ESPN Magazine cover. Very intense. A little bit with the crazy eyes too. [My roommate glanced at the cover when it was sitting on the kitchen island and asked me "who's that guy?"]
This is not just about choice. This about market. The choices Wambach makes not to be in the public eye as much as Solo are not entirely unfettered.
And ESPNW looks a little naive in its coverage of these "different paths" especially when one of the sources hints heavily at the whole "lesbian thing."