Two Leonine Coaches Rev Up the Olympics
American boorishness is not confined to domestic usage. We export a good bit of it, too.
I am thinking here of the disgraceful behavior of Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo in the past two weeks.
Lochte apparently has spent so much of his life in chlorine that it has pickled his brain. He did not realize Brazil just might have security cameras that would detect an Olympic celebrity with dyed light blue hair after he and three pals claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint. (It appears they broke into a restroom. Geniuses.)
Solo indulged in unsportsmanlike whining after the American soccer team was defeated by Sweden, calling her opponents “cowardly” for their conservative tactics.
Solo was detracting from Sweden’s coach, Pia Sundhage, who used to coach the Americans. The Swedes lulled the quicker, more potent Americans into forays, and then struck on the counter-attack.
But let’s pass over the two loutish athletes and concentrate on the women’s final Friday as Germany outlasted Sweden, 2-1, to win the Olympic gold medal.
Women’s soccer has only been in the Olympics since 1996, and this was the first time two female coaches had reached the finals – Silvia Neid of Germany and Sundhage of Sweden, both of whose athletic sideline prowling and grayish manes allow me to use the word “leonine.”
Sundhage is one of the really cool coaches I have ever met. Sometimes to loosen up her players she will emit a folk song. When the U.S. beat Brazil, 1-0, in the finals of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the press prodded her to sing Bob Dylan. She obliged with a quickie from “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
I have a personal short list of coaches I would like to have played for, if I were an athlete, that is -- Gil Hodges in baseball, Al Arbour in hockey, Dean Smith in basketball and Herman Edwards in football. (Edwards is a guru who earnestly tried to teach doltish reporters to trust our own faculties. He had a mantra: “The eye/Don’t lie.”)
A decade ago, I expanded my list to include Sundhage, the wandering Swede, who was coaching the Americans, quite successfully.
It annoyed me when Solo made a spectacle of herself by asking for replacement keeper gloves when Sweden had a chance to clinch with the next penalty kick.
The Swedish kicker converted, anyway, and soon Solo ripped Pia’s hunkering tactics, which have merely won championships. I saw Italy’s men win the 1982 World Cup by using an updated version of the catenaccio (the bolt, or chain, in Italian) defense – tight back line, and counter-attack when an opening presents itself.
"Let's inspire, let's be badass, let's be fierce, let's be competitive,” Megan Rapinoe, the artful American winger, told NBC the other day. “But we're gracious and we're humble, and we play the game a certain way, whether we win or lose."
Rapinoe added, “And we've been on the winning side quite a bit, and when we find ourselves on the other side, we need to handle that graciously, and unfortunately that wasn't the case."
Sweden lost as Germany, looking fresher and faster, scored once, pressured an own goal, and then hung on defensively (would Solo say “cowardly?)
Now the question is, what does the footloose Sundhage do next?
Recently, Henrik Rydström, a member of the Swedish national men’s squad, suggested that Sundhage would make a fine coach for his team.
A reporter asked Sundhage whether a woman could really coach a national men’s team. Her response, in Swedish, as translated by Business Insider:
“Well, then, let me ask you a question. Does it work with a female chancellor in Germany?”
Pia then spelled it out for reporters:
“Angela Merkel” (is running) an entire “f------ country. Clearly it works.”
Clearly, female coaches work for female players. And let me throw this out: there is another country that seems 88 percent likely to elect a female President in November.
One of these years, Juergen Klinsmann will move on. Pia Sundhage should be on the short list.
Plus, she already knows our folk songs.
8/19/2016 10:31:07 pm
Do you think Pia took Malvina Reynolds's folksongs to heart?
8/25/2016 11:47:02 pm
Guys, Bruce is sarcastic. Sometimes snarky about foibles American and Canadian. He had an epic debate with my man Big Al over....well, I can't remember. Yankees?
8/26/2016 12:03:25 am
8/20/2016 09:39:49 am
Brian, thanks, I am sure Pia could sing it with just the right inflections.
8/21/2016 10:19:53 am
8/21/2016 11:57:43 am
Quite right. New Zealand has had two. I know somebody who got on a flight from Wellington to Auckland and sat next to the apparently unescorted prime minister Helen Clark, and they chatted the entire flight. Circa 2000. NZ seems to have survived Shipley and Clark quite nicely. GV
8/21/2016 01:45:03 pm
8/21/2016 08:14:16 pm
Bruce, I like the rule for USA.
8/21/2016 08:53:00 pm
8/22/2016 04:45:11 pm
I am fairly certain that McEnroe, born in Germany, is eligible to hold the office of President of the United States since he was born a US citizen. Those born elsewhere and naturalized-like Arnold Schwarzenegger to name one example-are not eligible for the Presidency.
8/23/2016 10:04:44 am
John, thanks, my friend from Canuckistan, above, agrees. It was always reassuring to hold on to the illusion, just in case..... The same was true for John McCain, born in Panama. Once spent an hour in his office, liked him very much up close.. I told him I knew he and some pals had organized a pipeline of goods to post-war Vietnam....He shrugged it off.
8/23/2016 10:11:23 am
8/24/2016 09:19:36 pm
George--no typo with your name this time.
8/25/2016 06:30:15 am
Bruce--Solo was no angle. She has been at odds with the national team since Briana Scurry was the keeper.
8/25/2016 09:13:54 am
8/26/2016 12:33:00 pm
Well, George, in a tale of bad behavior, I was bothered more by the in your face, I'm No.1, show me the money, antics of Michael Phelps telling off the home town Brazilians after winning his first Gold medal, and the heavy handed conduct of the Brazilian judicial system, than Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo.
Comments are closed.
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.