Why Everyone Wants To Marry Hope Solo

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A lot of people think Hope Solo is hot, statistically speaking. That's not surprising. What is unusual is how little her perceived hotness seems to matter to those people. There seems to be less of a desire to see her in a bikini, and the fact that people find her attractive is manifesting itself in a more chaste way — marriage proposals. The sign pictured above might have helped to start the trend, but it can't be the only thing going on here, as the offers keep pouring in. There are also plenty of men who want to take things a bit more slowly, and her current relationship status is being googled enough for Bleacher Report to start 10 recent article headlines with "Hope Solo Boyfriend."

This raises a rare question: Why aren't men thinking (or at least talking) about sex more? Consider the reaction to other attractive female athletes, like Maria Sharapova, Danica Patrick, and Anna Kournikova. Men don't have a history of sublimating attraction. The only similar situation that comes to mind is Lil' Wayne's public thing for Skylar Diggins.

Megan Rapinoe to Abby Wambach goal in 122 | USA vs. Brazil | 2011 Womens World Cup [www.keepvid.com]

One explanation is that the USWNT appeared on the national radar as a soccer team, not as a cause or a marketing campaign. This was the first American women's team to attract national attention without being, as Slate's Brian Phillips put it, a "roving band of inspiration." Americans watched them play soccer because they were so good at it. Where the United States men's team had an improbable comeback against lowly Algeria, the women defeated Marta and Brazil. The highlight of their run that will get played over and over will be Abby Wambach's perfect header, as opposed to Brandi Chastain's bra-baring celebration in 1999 — the latter an athletic moment that everyone decided to pretend was sexy. Wambach's goal against Brazil didn't need symbolism to be memorable.


Solo's newfound fame illustrates this effect. Unlike the overwhelming majority of female athletes who have captured mass attention, Solo first gained recognition for being great at something: She's the best keeper in women's soccer. Sharapova might be equally good, but it was before she won her first major (and before she turned 18) that people began discussing her as the next Kournikova — Kournikova herself being an odd benchmark for tennis success. The public, the press, and the apparel industry, not necessarily in that order, saw the athletes and decided their salient feature was their looks.

Solo's case has a lot to do with the type of coverage that women's soccer gets in America: Unlike tennis, it's not in the news all year, but unlike niche Olympic sports, it has the potential to captivate a large part of the country. As a result, Solo didn't receive a lot of attention until her team was on ESPN.com's front page multiple times per week. Her ability was the leading edge of the story. That's why the admiration has a chaste quality — people are responding to highlights, not poses.

Compare that to Sharapova, whose looks dominate her branding. Her Nike page features a picture of her ostensibly training, about to perform the most pinup-style crunch ever. Google Images could fool you into thinking she's a model-actress who played a tennis player in a movie. Solo, meanwhile, is playing soccer in her Nike portrait, and Google sees her the same way.

The women's game doesn't have to be More Than Just Soccer or, heaven forbid, Not Really About Soccer. Soccer can be soccer, and maybe everything else, even sexuality, can work itself out.