It is a sad and unfortunate truth that the status of female athletes is as heavily influenced by sex appeal as talent. Those blessed with both not only become sports stars but also celebrities.
So the spotlight was destined to find and follow Hope Solo.
Yet Solo is taking no chances.
The Olympic gold medalist has been featured on the covers of sports magazines, fashion magazines, nutrition magazines and news weeklies. She is the most instantly recognizable face in women's soccer.
In addition to sex appeal and talent, Solo also has a third component that sets her apart from nearly all female athletes and makes her the perfect sports celebrity of our times: Drama. This rare sports celebrity triple play could make the greatest female goalkeeper on earth as tediously ubiquitous as the Kardashians.
Such exposure might grow the Solo brand. It does not necessarily promote healthy growth of soccer in America.
Yet Solo, 31, seems to be sprinting down this road. She has over the past two months failed a drug test (a result of a banned substance within a pre-menstrual medication), implied the Olympic Village is one giant hookup party, thrown a twitter snit over critical but fair comments made by soccer icon and TV analyst Brandi Chastain; gone public accusing an ex-coach, Greg Ryan, of pushing her; and accused her former TV dance partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, of slapping her.
Somehow, some way, almost weekly, Hope jumps
Maybe this is all part of Solo's strategy to push sales of her new book, co-authored with Bay Area sports writer Ann Killion. If so, fine. Tell the stories. Tell them loudly. Tell them in ways that might touch or inspire others.
But Solo has a history of straddling the line between candor and loose cannon. When she was benched for the World Cup final in 2007, a game the U.S. lost, she sniped at the coach, Ryan, and torched a teammate, the popular veteran keeper Brianna Scurry.
Solo violated the ancient rule that says an athlete doesn't criticize a teammate in public -- and broke another rule by adding she would have been so much better.
Solo's teammates felt betrayed. Ryan, of whom it must be said made the wrong choice with Scurry, banished Solo from the team. It took nearly a year, and having Pia Sundhage replace Ryan as head coach, for Solo to get back into the fold.
That she put in the work to rejoin her teammates speaks highly of Solo's desire and resilience. She was stung, recovered and has since been a linchpin of the team. Her diving save in the gold medal victory over Japan was spectacular, and perhaps only she might have made it. There likely is no goal medal team without Solo.
But Solo's brilliant play evidently doesn't speak loudly enough for her.
Maybe this deep desire for attention goes back to childhood. She had a difficult upbringing in Seattle, where her father, a Vietnam veteran, struggled to cope after returning to the states. Solo says in her book that she was conceived during a conjugal visit between her mother and her imprisoned father.
So we should understand if her view of the world is a bit unconventional, and if she is rougher and tougher than the average girl.
"I don't care how I'm seen. I'm myself," she told reporters after the gold medal win over Japan. "I don't care how people perceive me. I am who I am."
Solo is locomotive personality, determined to speak her mind. That's wonderful.
That she explores so many avenues, some unbecoming, to polish her star is a little scary. Solo alone delivers more drama than the rest of her mates on the Olympic team, more than Serena and Venus, more than Danica Patrick and any three female American golfers you name. She's fast approaching Terrell Owens territory.
As much as I root for someone like Solo -- bold, independent and ferociously competitive -- I also know drama is a double-edged sword. Ask T.O. or Allen Iverson or Jose Canseco or, yes, Mike Tyson.
If tabloid sales are any indication, Solo is onto something. In the era of reality TV, we love folks who deliver drama. We love gossip and rumors and innuendo. We watch those who rant and blame. And Solo brings it, which helps explain the 648,000 twitter followers.
But she's in danger of turning her life into a succession of red wine spills, which easily leads to those tabloids, the ones that blurt out headlines about the four-headed kittens and the Octomom and Oprah's torrid affair with Charlie Sheen.
I hope, for her sake as well as that of soccer in the states, Solo can save herself from such a fate.