“Can Twitter save women’s soccer?”

If you are on Twitter and in the women’s soccer community, you have heard the rumblings of a hashtag-slash-trending-topic movement to draw attention to the USWNT game versus Italy on November 27. ESPN3.com will be carrying the webcast, and folks want to prove to ESPN that people give a damn about the game.

I understand why women’s soccer fans expect and demand more of ESPN and other major media outlets when it comes to coverage of the sport. I don’t necessarily agree, as I’ve said in previous entries, but I get it. When the internal media production stagnates and is unwilling to evolve, it’s time to beg for outside help. It’s also time to take matters into your own hands.

I do believe in the power of Twitter, particularly in the hands of players and fans. I do believe this game needs to be watched by casual fans of US soccer. And I think it’s really important that fans are exposed to the background of how the USWNT ended up in the mess they’re in. I think it’s important that fans be dissatisfied with the lack of media coverage both internal and external, because in a way, that played a part in the past six or so years of complacency.

Of the two of us here at Cross-Conference, I am probably the wrong one to be writing this post. But I was asked, as a women’s soccer blogger, and even though I don’t root for the USWNT, I do admire the initiative. If you get enough people talking about and pushing for change, becoming part of the change, you have a better chance of effecting it.

Use #uswnt when you tweet about the game, and tweet often. This isn’t just about the national team–it’s about women’s soccer in the US.

Or it’s about Alex Morgan. Who can say, for sure?

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Hope Solo – Gonna take a mighty swipe at the high hog

Hope Solo, WWC 2007Does everyone remember back in 2007, when Hope Solo watched the USWNT get their asses kicked in the World Cup, then made a statement to the Canadian media that amounted to, “Greg Ryan is an idiot for benching me because I am this US team’s number one GK, and there are no stats in goalkeeping–shut up, Heifetz, I’ll say what everyone is thinking if I want”? Originally, the video of this statement was available online, unedited, but I guess what aired on TV were the incendiary clips that got Solo kicked off the team. Rioting ensued, Solo apologized on MySpace, and she became the major storyline of the USWNT for the next two years.

Now it’s 2010 and Solo has returned to filing complaints in public spaces. This time, however, she is skipping the middleman. Earlier this season she complained about American soccer commentators

I’ve heard the best commentating throughout these wc games! All from other countries. We have a long way to go here in the US! They truly know how to let the game be played and speak for itself. They have funny little comments and then return to the game. And they don’t over analyze!!!! It makes watching the games much less frustrating and much more enjoyable!

WPS reffing and discipline

Here we go again… Protection

What are we the legal system now? Perhaps jail time too? An orange jumpsuit? The guillotine? Trying to make an embarrassment out of people? Should I be laughing! I just don’t know anymore.

Anybody want to join us for some community service? Its a tough task laying out by the pool while trying to put back tasty beverages.

[A/N: The above occurred around a red card incident with Solo’s Atlanta teammate Kia McNeill, who came studs-up (about shoulder height) at opposing goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. This was McNeill’s third red card in two years. The discipline committee reviewed the incident and added two additional suspensions–a total of three games missed–and four hours of community service, which clearly means little in WPS. An appeal was made, to no effect.]

and in response to team/league press releases

Lucky? I don’t think so. When will little old atlanta get a bit of credit. Who writes these press releases?

Most recently, Solo has caused a stir following Atlanta’s 2-0 loss at Boston (which she preceded with a minor rant about officiating).

To all the boston fans and especially the young kids that I didn’t sign autographs for I’m sorry. I will not stand for An organization who can so blatantly disrespect the athletes that come to play. Perhaps the WPS or Boston themselves Can finally take a stance to the profanity, racism and crude remarks that are made by their so called “fan club” To the true fans, I hope to catch you at the next game. Thanks for your support and love for the game.

There is a lot of discussion right now, with Boston’s Riptide defending themselves and both Boston and Atlanta’s front offices talking about making a joint statement. Et cetera. I agree that the issues that have been raised by Solo and the ensuing reactions definitely open the main door on the soccer-and-race discussion for WPS, but since it looks like the “discussion” is about denying racism instead of acknowledging that it is a mainstay in soccer and–founded or not–Solo’s allegations can be used as a chance to combat it early on in the league…

Admittedly, I let myself get distracted by the media issue. One of the things that people have been saying is that Solo should have filed her complaint about the Riptide through formal channels instead of making her accusations in front of 1.8k followers on the internet. She should have signed for the young fans and spoken to the media immediately after the game.

Wait, what?

Solo is not the most PR- or Twitter-savvy player on the USWNT or in the WPS, but she seems to have learned her lesson about speaking to the media (the mediators) immediately following an infuriating match. Regardless of her intentions, not engaging with fans–particularly the young ones that are often clamoring for signatures while wearing the opponents’ gear–immediately following an infuriating match is probably a good thing, considering her temper and opinionated nature.

Solo’s grasp of Twitter and microblogging leaves much to be desired, but she is her account’s sole mediator. She bypassed a more immediate outlet (the fans and press at the field) for a slightly less-immediate outlet where she would have control over expressing her message. WPS established Twitter as one of the league’s legitimate media components from the start, so this platform stands above a statement made on MySpace–I don’t see any comparison between the two except that they are both player-controlled and on the internet. These 140 characters can’t be edited at the source, only posted or deleted. Nearly a week later, nothing has been deleted.

Last year, when Sky Blue FC axed two coaches in mid-season, there wasn’t any transparency. Complaints were filed through the “right” channels and implied in mediated ones. Information from all sides of the story was sorely lacking. We see a lot of this in women’s soccer, so it’s key when the players, especially, take possession of the messages that end up in public.

Even more so, it’s fascinating to see the high-profile Hope Solo adjust her approach to a tension-filled situation in a positive and slightly more controlled manner now that her options for mediation have changed. It’s taking so long for the “right channels” to address this formally that it’s hard to believe the fans ever would have heard about such a serious accusation if Solo hadn’t taken it upon herself to apologize to young fans for her absence.

Edited to include the “joint statement” from the Breakers and Beat, poorly named “Solo statement”:

Westwood, MA (August 9, 2010) –The management of the Atlanta Beat and the Boston Breakers have worked together over the past several days to look into the alleged incidents of fan misconduct and the subsequent post-game public comments of beat goalkeeper Hope Solo during the Breakers-Beat game at Harvard Stadium on Wednesday, August 4th.

After interviewing fans, players, security personnel and team employees, it seems clear that a few individual fans shouted comments towards the field that crossed the line from traditional heckling to abusive language that is neither respectful of the players, nor apppropriate for the family friendly entertainment environment that the Breakers pride themselves on. The Breakers organization extends an apology to all members of the Beat team & staff and to any Breakers fans that were offended by the actions of these unidentified individuals. The Breakers have also pledged to place additional stadium security in closer proximity to the stadium sections adjacent to the visiting bench and goalkeeping areas to further ensure a safe and enjoyable game environment for all participants & spectators.

The coordinated review of the Breakers and the Beat also conclusively showed that at no time was there any organized or coordinated singing or chanting of racially insensitive slogans or profanity by the Riptide supporters group or any other group of fans. The Beat regret that a member of their organization used social media to make public allegations against the Breakers organization and its supporters group without first bringing her concerns to the attention of either club. The Beat and its players understand that the remarks were from a few individuals and not representative of the Breakers organization or the Riptide supporters group.

Both teams look forward to contesting the remainder of this exciting WPS playoff race on the field and to their next head-to-head competition on August 21st, when the Breakers and the Beat meet at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain, Connecticut.