Han Solo was a character in Star Wars. I never understood the plot, couldn’t figure out who was on whose side, but I did understand a human (Harrison Ford), out there trying to right wrongs, or whatever he was up to.
That brings me to goalkeepers. They are a different breed, most of them lone rangers, wearing bizarre costumes and sporadically called upon to save the day. Hours of tedium, moments of terror, as somebody said about pilots.
A few great keepers are phlegmatic, like Dino Zoff of Italy, but many more are expressive lunatics, like Gigi Buffon, also of the Azzurri. They scream at their teammates. They disrupt the opposition.
The United States goes into the final of the Women’s World Cup against Japan on Sunday relying on Hope Solo, not to be confused with Han Solo, although maybe yes. Some people think she should not be representing her country because of allegations of a family brawl, but I don’t think her case is comparable to the Ray Rice affair.
Solo will be in goal on Sunday, perhaps to replicate the brash tactics by Briana Scurry that helped win the WWC in 1999. Scurry had the gall to leave the line and intimidate a Chinese player during the shootout that would decide the championship. She took the chance of being shown a yellow card and earning a do-over for the shooter.
Was it cheating? Was it gamesmanship? I say the ref went for it, and that is part of any sport – the slide step by a pitcher on a pickoff, the head fake on the line of scrimmage that induces an offsides call, the dive in basketball. Any way you look at it, Briana Scurry is a great keeper who helped win a World Cup.
Hope Solo also commandeered the goal zone in Tuesday’s semifinal, after Germany had been awarded a penalty kick. Solo went into her disruptive mode, wandering around, fussing with her water bottle, wasting seconds, icing the German kicker.
By the time Solo decided she was good and ready, the German player was licking her dry lips and turning her head for assurance from the sideline. She emitted a weak shot that skittered a foot wide to her left. Disaster. The U.S. went on to win the match.
Intimidation is part of the sport, but it has its limits. I thought Tim Krul of the Netherlands was way over the line with his pro wrestling behavior against Colombia in the 2014 World Cup. He should have been red-carded for gesturing at the opponents, but maybe guys get away with more. I had no problem with Scurry’s quick start in 1999 or Solo’s need to hydrate for 90 seconds in 2015.
Every team needs an audacious keeper who could make a difference in a final.
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)