"It was the wrong decision. And I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore. And it's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can’t live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that’s what I think." This is not what ensued in the aftermath.
Editor's note: contains immature language.
Carli Lloyd texted with her trainer, James, in New Jersey. She turned to me. "Hope, James says this is blowing up back home," she said. "It's all over the news."
"Boots Randolph died. You know. The guy who wrote 'Yakety Sax.' The Benny Hill theme? The world's in mourning."
"And by the way, you're up s--- creek."
For the rest of the ride, I stared out the window, watching the lights rush past in the dark night, replaying the words in my head. But I couldn't. There are no words to "Yakety Sax."
Once we got to the Westin Shanghai, Carli and Marci Miller -- whom I roomed with in Shanghai -- huddled with me in front of the computer. We found the interview on ESPN and watched it. "It's not so bad, is it?" I asked them. "That was meant for Greg, not Bri."
Carli and Marci looked at each other, then looked at me.
"That's a plausible defense, right? Someone would believe that in a million years, wouldn't they?"
Carli and Marci looked at each other, then looked at me.
"I mean, come on - a million years, that's a long time."
Carli and Marci hesitantly agreed. I'm blessed to have friends who would never dream of patronizing me.
"Well," I said, trying to laugh, "I guess it's only a matter of time before I get hell from the older players."
Right then, my phone rang. Also, a wolf howled, lightning crashed through the sky, and the words "mene tekel Wambach" appeared on the wall in dripping blood. "I guarantee you this is them," I said as I picked up.
"That's good," said Marci. "It would have been narratively inconvenient if we had sat here in stone dead silence for forty-five minutes just staring at each other like bush babies."
"Hush," I said.
It was our team captain Kristine Lilly. She said the veterans wanted to talk to me and asked if I would come to their room.
"Nah, I'm really beat," I said. "How's next week? We could do lunch."
As the air crackled with Lilly's obscenities, I told her that maybe I would see if I could stop by for a few, chat a little, talk about the good old -
"Wow," said Carli. "Your eyes are open, you seem to be breathing, and yet I'm looking at a dead person."
"Can I have your hair dye after they kill you?" asked Marci.
Armed with the well-wishes of my friends, I walked down the hall. By now it was after midnight. I pushed open the door of Lil's room and saw the veterans grimly waiting for me. Kate Markgraf stood by the door. Lil, Shannon Boxx, Christie Pearce Rampone, Abby, and Bri sat on the beds. I walked across to the other side of the room and leaned against the wall. I decided to cut the tension with a joke.
"So - what has two thumbs and didn't let in four f---ing goals tonight?" Incredibly, no one laughed.
They had seen the interview. I was told that I had, in their opinion, basically committed treason.
"Well, no, treason is putting on your country's uniform and getting tuned up 4-0," I said. "Which, not to belabor the point, is a YP and not an MP," I added. "What the hell were you guys doing out there, anyway? You looked like a bunch of a grasshoppers trying to f--- a fruit salad."
Kate Markgraf turned on me. "I can't even f---ing look at you," she said. "Who the f--- do you think you are? I can't even be in the same room with you."
She walked out and slammed the door behind her. Wow, I thought, that seems overly dramatic.
"Overly dramatic?" Kate yelled. Not for the first time, I cursed my inability to keep my inner monologues inward. "You calling someone overly dramatic is like...is like...is like Wallace Shawn calling someone incredibly talented!"
She stormed off. Her hurtful words had left a mark.
Now there were five. I stood and listened as each had her say.
They told me that you don't throw a teammate under the bus, that I had broken the code, that I had betrayed the team. I was told that I had ruined everything this team was built on, and that I had torn down what Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm and Lil and all the players who paved the way for us had created.
"This isn't about Julie Foudy or anyone else from the past," I said.
"Past? I'm still here," said Kristine. But I was on a roll.
"I think all of us believe in ourselves enough to think we can affect the outcome. By the way, what was tonight's outcome, again? Why the hell am I the one on the griddle here? You stunk up the place before I said word one. Don't you guys have any mirrors you could look into?"
"Are you even going to apologize to Bri?" someone asked.
Bri spoke first. She told me I had hurt her very much. She said she had tried to be there for me when my father died and was shocked that I would do this to her.
"Wait," I said. "Are you saying you thought that was about you? Wow! No! Oh, no, of course not! Where are you getting that from? This was about Greg! Obviously! I mean - I don't see how ANYONE could think-"
"You said starting me was the wrong decision."
"See? Greg's decision! I was clearly talking about Greg!"
"You said it wasn't 2004 anymore."
"Well, it's not...."
"You said you would have made the saves I had missed."
"And Greg should have known that! Come on, how is that about you? I'm not seeing that at ALL!"
Ever have one of those days where no one wants to listen to sweet reason? I wanted to have a private moment with Bri but I was in a room full of angry women who demanded that I perform a public act of contrition. Everything felt forced. Staged. It was almost as if I was convincing myself that I hadn't done something that any idiot could tell that I obviously had done.
"Hope, we've heard your side of things," Christie said. "You've heard how we feel. So how are we going to move forward and make this better?"
"I say we let her go," I tried, doing my best "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure." No dice.
I went back to my room for a few tortured hours. I couldn't sleep. What with being hooked up to the car battery and everything. Let me tell you, some people can NOT take a joke.
All my life I've said exactly what I thought and stood up for myself. Er...except for literally three paragraphs ago, when I couldn't come up with a decent apology to Briana Scurry. But except for that one tiny slip-up, I've been a rock.
The next morning when I stepped into the room, I saw Bri standing by the door and I paused. "Bri, do you have a second?" I said. "Please know I would never want to hurt you. I have so much respect for you. I think that clearly showed when I told a worldwide audience that you were playing as if you had flippers instead of hands."
She turned away from me. "Hope, I can't even look at you right now," she said.
What's eating her, I thought.
I walked into the room and felt twenty sets of eyes bore into me.
I was on stage. Time to turn on the old charm!
"I never meant to hurt Bri," I said. "My comments were directed at Greg and his reasoning. I said I would have made those saves because I truly have to believe I could have made a difference."
Because, you know, that line of reasoning proved so persuasive the night before. But incredibly enough, the team saw it differently! It's like I was trapped on a highway to Crazyville or something!
"You don't sound sincere."
"Do you even care what you've done?"
"How can you turn your back on the team?"
"Do you know how horrible you looked on television, pouting on the bench?"
"You've been feeling sorry for yourself since Greg told you that you weren't starting. Some of us sit on the bench every game."
I looked at my few close friends, hoping for a sympathetic face, but all I saw were blank, cold stares. In retrospect, I probably should have come up with responses besides "I'm not, I don't, who cares, who cares, and maybe you'd start more if you didn't suck."
"You haven't even apologized to Bri," someone said.
There it was again - somehow, people thought this was about Briana Scurry! Go figure. As I spoke, my voice broke. "I'm sorry Bri," I said. "I never meant to hurt you. I'm sorry that I did. But next year, we'll be back here. And we'll all have big, big sex, get drunk off our asses, and show up drunk on the Today Show! Huh? Who's with me?"
Bunch of a god-damned wet blankets, if you ask me. I was asked to leave the room while my fate was decided.
Eventually, I was informed that my teammates had deemed my apology insincere. Which, considering that most of my self-image is bound up in being truthful no matter what the cost, might lead someone to put two and two together, but please resist that temptation. It certainly wasn't as if while I was talking, I was also casting voodoo magic to curse Wambach and Lilly from coming back to China for the Olympics next year, no sir. Heh heh heh.
I needed to be punished. They would not allow me to play in the third-place game. I couldn't even go to the game.
"NO!" I screamed. "Anything but that! It's the third place game that truly is the mark of a champion! Everyone knows that the whole world really gives a s--- about the third place game!" To underscore to the room how much that hurt, I also made a circle with my fingers and moved my wrist back and forth in sadness.
They also decided that I needed to call Julie Foudy to apologize to her for tarnishing the legacy she helped build, which seemed absurd to me.
"It's because Foudy is a much more divisive figure than Mia Hamm or Michelle Akers," Lilly explained. "This way, when you write your memoirs, you'll have to put in this part, and no one will believe you! Because it will seem too conveniently implausible! Ha ha ha! Our revenge is PERFECT!"
Later that night, my phone buzzed. It was a text from Carli. "How are you? I'm thinking about you. Hang in there."
I felt the warmth of her embrace. I still had a friend in the world.
I texted back immediately. "Good luck in the Final OH WAIT...."
[The manuscript ends abruptly, except for a handwritten note that reads, cryptically, "I'm not getting paid enough for this - A.K."]