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Rick’s Cafe: Why we love Hope Solo, and eventually may love women’s soccer as well

Jul 14, 2011, 4:25 PM EDT

Solo of the U.S. attends a training session ahead of the Women's World Cup match against France in Moenchengladbach

It’s official: The U.S. women’s soccer team has captured the imagination of the country. And leading the way is goalie Hope Solo, who has bewitched the world’s male population in a way we never thought possible. Shall I dare quote Bill Clinton here? What the heck: It was our former lusty, lecherous President who once said “I still believe in a place called Hope.” And it seems we all do during the Women’s World Cup. But exactly why do we love Hope Solo? Here are some theories:

1. The Amazon Factor. Somewhere in our DNA, just below the basic need to procreate and above the urge to avoid the music of Barry Manilow, is an attraction to the Amazon women of old. According to Greek mythology, the Amazons were a tribe of fierce warrior women who lived near the region of present-day Ukraine. Solo, with her feminine-yet-powerful physique and obvious athletic prowess, appeals to the male need to produce handsome, athletic children, and also to be married to someone who can defend us against muggers.

2. She’s hot, yet wholesome. As has been noted earlier, Solo has been getting a ridiculous amount of marriage proposals since the U.S. win over Brazil, so much so that the hashtag #marrymehopesolo has been trending on Google. But notice that these (mostly) men are not saying that they want to have sex with or simply ogle Ms. Solo … as is the case with Erin Andrews or Anna Kournikova or any number of other hot sports babes in recent years. They’re saying they want to marry her. That’s very different. That’s the kind of commitment you just don’t see from the average besotted frat boys, ink-stained sportswriters and loutish couch potatoes who make up the great majority of American sports fandom. They want to take Hope home to meet their mothers. They want to stay indoors with her and bake banana bread, watch Sex and the City II and (shudder) cuddle. Eventually, there will be youth soccer schedules and fingerpaint art stuck to the refrigerator door with magnets. And that’s unprecedented.

source:

3. The goalie factor. Men are always on offense. In a bar, on a date, at the movies, it doesn’t matter — it’s always a corner kick situation any time we’re with a woman, and the objective at the end of the evening is to hear the announcer scream “Goooooooooaaaaaallllll!” But we also secretly admire a woman who plays hard to get. And who plays better defense than an actual world-class goalie? Sitting in front of our flat screens, watching Solo block shot after shot, has triggered that part of our subconscious that respects one of soccer’s — and dating’s — primary rules: Only the goalie can use her hands.

4. Patriotism. We loved Anna Kournikova, sure … but she’s Russian. As is Maria Kirilenko. But Hope Solo is as American as Burt Reynolds in a Trans Am, and it’s difficult not to salute whenever she’s on camera. OK, maybe I’ll take out that previous sentence.

5. Girls don’t flop. Yep. One of the big reasons that U.S.-type folks give for not liking soccer is the flop factor — when pro players fall to the earth and clutch various body parts without having been touched. But the women don’t do that, or if so, very little. When we see how seriously they take the game, while still refusing to cheat to win, well, see No. 2 above.

Those are my theories. But Jakob of the fine soccer blog Unprofessional Foul has emailed me with a simpler reason that we love Hope Solo. And also why women’s soccer has just taken another giant step forward.

It likely has something to do with her being rather attractive. But, just as in life, beauty isn’t always enough to hold the interest of the male sports fan (save for Anna Kournikova it seems) for much longer than the amount of time it takes to read a blog post with some photo of the female athlete attached to it. For that male sports fan to maintain interest, maybe even continue interest long after the premier women’s soccer tournament has finished, there needs to be great talent and winning associated with the player.

And, Hope Solo has both of those things going for her. She is the best female goalkeeper in the world and as we all know the USWNT continues to win. She is a winner people love a winner.

But, the pulchritude of Hope Solo and any infatuation with her or others on the squad is not going to create new women’s soccer fans. The thing that will generate new fans is the quality of play — the same thing that will create new MLS fans by the way — which has been outstanding in this World Cup. Japan, Sweden, Brazil, France, and the USA have all played excellent soccer from a technical and tactical viewpoint. The games have been a joy to watch for an informed soccer fan as well as newcomers. Great passing, dramatic scores, and lots of shots.

One caveat, though.

This women’s World Cup team, if they win — and they need to win this last game to really progress in the eyes of fans because ultimately you need to win — will be able to capture the hearts and minds of young girls around the country and world once again like the 1999 USWNT. That will surely bring some uptick in fans for women’s soccer that will be vitally important. The next Hope Solo, Alex Morgan or Abby Wambach is out there watching right now, she just needs somebody to look up to.

It also doesn’t hurt when Hope Solo does stuff like this:

source:

There will be a day, in my opinion, when women’s soccer rules the U.S. More and more girls are playing sports every day, and that includes soccer. So that’s going to give us more and more women who watch sports. Add to that the inevitable backlash against showboating and ignorance of fundamentals that we’re seeing in a lot of major men’s sports, and there you have it.

Hope Solo just may change the way all of us watch sports in the future. She already has for me: My chair is much closer to the TV.

***
Rick’s Cafe Americain appears each Thursday. Contact: Rickchand@gmail.com.

  1. trbowman - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    I might like Hope Solo, but soccer?

    lolno.

  2. yournuts - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    Love soccer and love the world cup. Great stuff1

  3. 12is3times4 - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    It also doesn’t hurt that Hope Solo shares the same last name and first initial as one of the most beloved movie sidekicks of all time.

    • Vincent - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:54 AM

      why have 17 people thumbs up’d this bull? Han Solo is in no way, shape, of form a sidekick.

  4. stjowalk - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    Uhhh…we don’t…and won’t. She looks like a man!

  5. cptnew1 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:49 AM

    Are you serious? Best looking dude I’ve ever seen then.

    http://www.listal.com/viewimage/1928924

    • ldpablo22 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      finally saw a photo of her with your link …. shwing. Very nice. But, it’s still women’s soccer and not a sport that I or anyone that I know would ever watch.

    • patjams - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      sorry, but that is NOT Hope Solo and if you can’t tell then you’re BLIND as a bat. Truth is, when she’s on a soccer field she is an average looking girl amongst a sea of trolls so of course she’s gonna get attention. If she walks into any room in a major city filled with that city’s prettiest girls she might as well be a doormat

  6. lunasceiling - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    6. She is just ridiculously good. Solo is the kind of keeper that gets in the other team’s strikers’ heads.

  7. stjowalk - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:01 AM

    cptnew1 –

    Dude. That’s not her and I think you know it.

  8. icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:27 AM

    Yea Soccer will never get big in America because we have several sports to choose from. I love soccer. But as once as this World Cup is done, you won’t hear about the womens’ national team til the Summer Olympics.

    • winkeroni - Jul 15, 2011 at 9:23 AM

      I for one am rooting for women’s soccer to get huge in the states. If women are going to get paid to play in the WNBA then there is no reason there shouldn’t be womens soccer televised nationally. One of the networks just has to take a risk and if there is a professional womens league start televising games. The ratings will be suprisingly good if it’s competetive and there are a few stars guys can root for. Women from all over the country will watch it and there will be a suprisingly amount of men that will watch it. Men watch anything from gymnastics to Ghost Whisperer.

    • ldpablo22 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:51 PM

      I love soccer too as do many in the U.S. Although we don’t support it nearly like other countries. But, it’s because it is a female sport that it will not gain popularity, not because it is soccer. Why would you go to an inferior restaurant when you could go to a superior one? Why would you watch a women’s sport when men a superior athletes? This is not gender prejudice, it is a fact. Isn’t it? Or, am I missing something other than polical correctness? Unfortunately some network probably will bow down to a women’s boycot if they don’t broadcast a few token games.

  9. wailingminutiae - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    Fabulous sport, Fab-0 Goalie, U.S.A. needs a real player in this global sport & the Ladies are IT!

  10. mattyg2k - Jul 15, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    I could watch that gif for hours and hours…

  11. eazye76 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    I don’t understand why ESPN rarely even mentions her. She got a little face time after the Brazil game but that’s about it. Abby Wambach is a great player but she’s not doing it by herself.

  12. herenow331 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Looking at that GIF, and thinking a little more about the surname “Solo,” makes me wonder: Is Hope Solo possibly part Japanese?

    (A Google search is of little help, because searching “hope solo and japanese” just turns up a gazillion hits about the upcoming Sunday game.)

    • herenow331 - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      LOL, what’s up with the thumbs-down? Is it bad if Solo’s family lineage is part Asian? Good grief.

      • mattyg2k - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        Why do you hate America?

  13. ldpablo22 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Considering no one watches women’s soccer, I have not idea who Hope is not how attractive she may be. I may read the article or watch the game on Sunday a bit just to see if she is really hot, but it certainly wouldnt be to watch “sports”. I would rather go to a pee wee league baseball game then watch any women’s sporting event. Everyone feels the same but too afraid to say it.

  14. profootballwalk - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Let’s all pretend we care about women’s team sports. Really, this time!

  15. micker716 - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    I could kind of understand the Hope-love until I saw an interview with her today on PTI. The girl is as dumb as a brick.

  16. udub - Jul 16, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    Hate to rain on the soccer love parade, seeing as I’m a soccer fan, but we’ve seen this play out before and the ‘eventually may love womens soccer as well’ part never happens. Every time the Women’s National Team gets attention people go nuts for a couple weeks and then everything goes back to normal. How many ‘This is the moment’ moments, ‘This is the time when womens soccer explodes’ times, etc do we have to go through before people quit writing about how we are going to fall in love with womens soccer? Its not going to happen before we fall in love with mens soccer first and the chance of that is slim to none.

  17. johnfromdaejeon - Jul 19, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    For the record:

    “Team USA’s loss to Japan this past Sunday drew 13.4 million viewers to top all basic cable shows in all major demos during the week of July 11 to July 17, according to a Turner Research analysis of Nielsen data.”

    With around 320 million people in the U.S., that translates to a little over 4% of the total population. Seems like some people in the media and soccer lovers are making a big mountain out of a small mole hill, especially as this was the championship game during a lackluster sports week. Just one average NFL game pulls numbers that dwarfs this.

    • johnfromdaejeon - Jul 19, 2011 at 6:13 PM

      udub is right about women’s soccer, but wrong about men’s soccer. Men’s soccer will slowly make gains as the U.S. becomes more and more Hispanic thanks to Mexico. Just look at this summer’s past game at the Rose Bowl that drew 93,000 Mexican fans to support their team while most of them live in the U.S.

      While the game drew less than 1,000,000 viewers from the U.S., the numbers from Mexican television were beyond gigantic and also pretty decent on Spanish language U.S. television network Univision — http://www.adweek.com/news/television/univision-nets-ratings-gold-mexico-us-final-133000