OK, I'm now gonna finish up my Olympics coverage, approximately one month after the games ended. Tonight, I am focusing on the US women's soccer team, which brought home gold after a turbulent year on and off the field. It all started at the 2007 World Cup, when US coach Greg Ryan inexplicably decided to bench goalie Hope Solo (a former Washington Husky!) for a crucial match against Brazil. And you know the rest: the US team got crushed 4-0, Solo criticized the coach publicly for his decision, and she was subsequently subjected to an amazing backlash/vendetta by the rest of the team and Ryan. She wasn't allowed to attend the next game, or team meals, or even fly back from China (yes, the women's World Cup and the Olympics were both in China) with the rest of the team. It didn't matter that the coach's decision was obviously wrong, or that Solo had suffered some personal tragedies including the deaths of her father and best friend in the preceding months.
Fortunately, Ryan got canned soon enough, a competent new coach was brought in, and Solo was allowed to rejoin the team. But even then, only one other player on the team would sit next to her or eat meals with her for a long period of time; and she was generally subjected to, as she put it, "a sorority-style atmosphere."
Does this make sense? Most men would say no. As one member of the men's team said in Sports Illustrated, "In England guys get in fights and arguments all the time, and usually within an hour or by the next day everything's fine. But to be completely ostracized? I've never heard of anything like that."
Woman-on-woman cruelty is not confined to soccer, obviously. If I watched more TV shows like Survivor and Real World, I'd probably be able to cite some other examples. And it's probably all explained in that "Women from Venus, Men from Mars" book. But I just find it fascinating. Kind of like how women like to dance, and men don't; and how women are generally much more skilled at interpersonal communications than men. My theory is that it's somehow tied in with human evolution: while men used brute force to survive in a hostile world, women developed other skills to get by, namely dancing and cunning and talking. I think Jared Diamond would agree.
And what of woman-on-man cruelty? While undeniably a real phenomenon, it's hard to make much of it, when it works the other way around most of the time. And again, and fortunately, I just don't a whole lot about it. (Unless you count the pre-school teacher who spanked me for punting one of those red rubber balls inside the room. Or the ex-girlfriend who once accused me of trying to "manipulate" her, after I wrote a long, rambling email to let her know that my mother had passed away a few days earlier.)
So, everything came out OK in the end. Hope Solo got her gold, just like the rest of the team. And Michael Phelps lived up to the hype, and the Chinese women's gymnastics team inspired pre-teens everywhere, and Usain Bolt ... Damn! He's ridiculously fast. It was quite an Olympics. And that's the end of my 2008 Olympics coverage. But one final word to all you Hope-haters: it's soccer, ladies, not Sigma Rho.