Time has come for Solo to be someone else's problem


Time has come for Solo to be someone else's problem

Hope Solo, who has been the U.S. ambassador to “Hey, You Wanna Fight, Punk?” for nearly a decade, just got the backhand she seemed to have been spoiling for all these years.

This time, U.S. Soccer, the people who run . . . well, what do you think they run? . . . decided to suspend her for six months for her postgame analysis of the U.S.-Sweden match from the Olympics in which she graciously described the Swedes as “cowards” for not playing the way Solo wanted them to play.

The suspension isn’t that much of a much anyway. There are no huge moments for the U.S. women’s team in the next half-year, and what moments there could be after that can be spent looking for the next Hope Solo.

Solo the goalkeeper, not Solo the social scientist.

[RELATED: Hope Solo's 'cowards' comment nets her six month suspension]

But Solo’s verbal pugnacity was adjudged an embarrassment to the nation in the face of a legitimate defeat by a worthy opponent, an act of ill grace that needed punishment on the grounds that “You said something stupid that made us all look bad, even though it only made you look bad.”

And, it was stressed by whichever annoyed civil servant had to type the release, that Solo was paying the price she paid for being, well, Solo, which Solo even acknowledged in her own statement, which also was almost surely typed by someone else.

The key phrase: “I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things.”

This would be the “I Yam What I Yam” defense as first articulated by Popeye the Sailor, and it carries as much throw-weight as a Popeye cartoon. Solo did not lash out as, say, Curt Schilling has in his latest brushes with The Man, but she basically said, “I must speak my truth.”

Which of course she actually doesn’t have to, and as an adult has control over what truths she chooses to share.

In this, her truth was actually an idiocy, since Sweden did what many teams do when confronted by a team with superior firepower. It played defensively, carefully and safely, and won in a penalty shootout because those are the rules by which the sport is conducted. The Swedes were not dirty, or divers, or time-wasters. They were tactical, and Solo’s complaint spoke more to frustration than a lack of understanding of tactics.

But it sounded stupid, in the same way that Pete Rose sounded stupid when he complained that Gene Garber wouldn’t throw him a fastball when Rose’s 44-game hitting streak was broken in 1978. Rose wanted the game to be played under “Call your own pitch rules,” just as Solo wanted Sweden to play in a style that disadvantaged Sweden.

Frankly, I’d have given her a year for speaking nonsense.

But what she did to put the final straw on the dromedary’s neck was to claim she could not be a great goalkeeper without the right to speak nonsense, and to act like a crass dullard when confronted with disappointment. She is saying she could not excel as an athlete without being a deliberate boor, which is a remarkable amount of leeway to give anyone.

The fact is, Hope Solo would be every bit the goalkeeper she has been if she hadn’t found ways to ram her cleats inside her mouth at inopportune moments. Her talent is not governed by her tongue, and her will to win is not affected by the freedom of her yap to flap.

And this comes from a First Amendment absolutist. Solo has the right to say what she feels, when she feels it. But in that way, her employers get to tell her what they think about it, and the public gets to say what they think about her and her employer on the issue.

So here’s the public saying, “We defend Solo’s right to speak, but she spoke stupidly, and since she’s had a habit of doing so, US Soccer has decided to look for alternatives to her unfettered cakehole."

Now if she’d called the Russians “cowards,” maybe that would have flown. Or if she’d said, “Shootouts suck,” she’d have been hailed as a sage. But the right to free speech in this society is governed most often by the range of an employer’s tolerance. Or a government’s. Or the public’s.

So this is the end of it? Probably not, because no scab ever goes unpicked, and no cause ever fully dies. Hope Solo gets six months, and may never play for the national team again, unless of course it can’t find a better goalkeeper. Because what we know as the First Amendment is actually filed under the actual First Amendment, known to historians as the Talent-Tolerance scale.

Specifically, we tolerate the behavior of the talent until we can find better talent to tolerate. US Soccer just put out a call to arms to find a more socially pliable goalkeeper/spokesman than Hope Solo, so she can be someone else’s problem from now on.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Behind teenage phenom, France win second World Cup title


Behind teenage phenom, France win second World Cup title

MOSCOW — Kylian Mbappe and France put on a thrilling show in winning the World Cup title. All Russian President Vladimir Putin might remember is the Pussy Riot protest.

The 19-year-old Mbappe became only the second teenager after Pele to score in a World Cup final, helping France beat Croatia 4-2 on Sunday.

Mbappe had just shown his electrifying speed in the 52nd minute when play was held up by four protesters who ran onto the field in the second half. Russian punk band Pussy Riot later took credit for the incident — watched from the VIP seats by Putin, whose government once jailed members of the activist group.

About 12 minutes after play resumed, Mbappe sent a right-footed shot past Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

The only other teen to score in a World Cup final was Pele, who was 17 when Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in 1958.

Mbappe, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain in the French league, was born months after France first won its only other World Cup title in 1998.

Putin was later on the field during a downpour to award medals to the players. FIFA president Gianni Infantino then handed France captain Hugo Lloris the World Cup trophy.

Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, France’s two other key players, also scored at the Luzhniki Stadium.

But it was Mbappe who put the match out of reach with a furious passage of play in the second half. In the 59th, a run from Mbappe started a play that ended up with Pogba on the edge of the penalty area. With his second attempt, the midfielder curled his shot beyond Subasic.

Mbappe then scored himself, his fourth of the tournament, to make it 4-1.

Griezmann scored from the penalty spot in the 38th minute after a video review. About four minutes after his corner kick was knocked out of play, the referee ruled Ivan Perisic had handled the ball on the way.

France took the lead in the 18th when Croatia’s tallest outfield player, 1.90-meter (6-foot-3) forward Mario Mandzukic, rose to meet Griezmann’s free kick with the top of his head. He inadvertently sent it past his own goalkeeper.

Perisic and Mandzukic both scored for Croatia, first to equalize in the 28th minute and later as a consolation goal in the 69th, embarrassing Lloris with a flicked shot as the France goalkeeper tried to dribble the ball out of his goalmouth.

France coach Didier Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach. Mario Zagallo of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany are the others.

Quakes fall to Impact for second straight loss


Quakes fall to Impact for second straight loss


MONTREAL -- Saphir Taider and Ignacio Piatti scored as the Montreal Impact cruised to a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.

Evan Bush had two saves to earn his seventh clean sheet of the season for Montreal (9-12-0), which extended its winning streak at home to five games.

Montreal bounced back after a 3-0 loss in New York on Wednesday. It was the Impact's fifth win in the past six games.

The Earthquakes (2-11-6) are now winless in their last 10 matches (0-6-4) dating back to May 12.

Taider gave Montreal the lead in the eighth minute. The 26-year-old got a pass from Piatti in the box and settled the bouncing ball with his right foot before firing a shot into the corner of the net with his left. San Jose defender Shea Salinas gave Taider too much space on the play and the Impact midfielder made the visitors pay with his fourth goal of the season.

Piatti sealed the win with his 10th goal of the year in the 74th minute.

Tensions were high between Earthquakes coach Mikael Stahre and a few of his players. Stahre removed starter Anibal Godoy from the game in the 41st minute. Godoy, with no apparent injury, walked straight to the dressing room. His replacement, Fatai Alashe, played four minutes before being subbed off at halftime. Alashe and Stahre got into a screaming match on the sideline.