The latest troubling revelation about Abby Wambach is one that might not fade quickly or quietly.
It raises questions about her conduct, her character, and her candor. It threatens the prized image she’s constructed over the years as someone who is genuine, principled and plainspoken, unafraid of truth.
And if it leads to further embarrassing disclosures, it could bring a swift end to her career at ESPN.
To put it bluntly, the retired 35-year-old might have a problem with the bottle.
Almost two years ago, according to TMZ, Wambach flipped her Range Rover, then fled before the cops arrived. It happened just after midnight on June 28, 2014, in Portland, where she lives with her spouse, Sarah Huffman.
(Hint to beginning reporters: Be suspicious of one-car crashes. If a car wasn’t hit by another car, then what caused it to crash? Often, the answer is found on the breath of the driver.)
(Hint No. 2: The later the crash, the more suspicious you should be. Remember the words of Bo Schembechler: “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”)
TMZ published several grainy photos of Wambach’s mangled, upside-down SUV, which ended up in someone’s front yard.
The news and gossip site says there’s a one-page police report on the wreck, even though Wambach was never charged. The police “helped put Abby in touch with the owner of the property so she could take care of the damages.”
Wambach’s new bosses at ESPN — like most, but not all of her corporate sponsors — gave her a pass for last month’s DUI, which also occurred in Portland.
They may not be so forgiving, however, if it comes out that she has a pattern of getting tanked up then getting behind the wheel.
She agreed to enter a diversion program for first-time offenders, one that requires her to undergo drug and alcohol assessments and counseling, abstain from drinking, and equip her car with a breath-analysis device that locks the ignition unless she’s sober.
If she meets the conditions, the criminal offense will be wiped off her record in a year.
From the beginning, Wambach won sympathy and praise for her unvarnished handling of the arrest. As she would often say in the next few days, she “owned it.”
Within hours of her release from jail, she posted a widely shared apology on Facebook.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” she wrote. “This is all on me. I promise that I will do whatever it takes to ensure that my horrible mistake is never repeated.
“I am so sorry to my family, friends, fans and those that look to follow a better example.”
In contrast, she’s been dead-silent (as far as I can tell) in the two days since TMZ broke the story of the 2014 rollover.
Those who commended her a month ago for her openness and honesty have a right now to wonder why she’s acting like someone with something to hide.
According to TMZ, a passerby saw the overturned SUV “moments after the crash” and called 911.
The driver had already fled.
Portland police ran the plate, identified Wambach as the vehicle’s owner, and drove to her home about a mile away.
She told them she’d left the accident because she realized she’d left her cellphone at home and wanted to call a tow truck. (I guess it didn’t occur to Wambach to ring the doorbell of the people in whose front yard she’d just planted her Range Rover. They probably had a phone. And by then, they were probably awake. The passerby who showed up within “moments” and called 911 also had a phone.)
Wambach wasn’t arrested, TMZ reports, because the officers who questioned her “say they had no reason to believe Abby was impaired.”
The officers never administered a sobriety test. If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask.
The police insist that Wambach didn’t get special treatment. The officers who went to her house say they had no idea who she was. “We handled it as we would any other similar crash,” TMZ quotes one anonymous officer as saying.
I guess that’s possible. Believe it or not, there are people who don’t closely follow women’s soccer.
In an appearance at Georgetown University on April 9, Wambach urged students to learn learn from her mistake.
“If you do something like I did last weekend, it’s not just you,” she said. ” Your whole family has to deal with it. In all of life, it’s not just you. It’s who you work for, it’s the school you went to, it’s the coaches you have, it’s the teachers you’ve had, it’s your parents, it’s your family, it’s your friends. Everything you do has an impact, has a ripple effect, both good and bad. Just make sure the good column is a lot longer than the bad.”
Those are wise words.
Since the TMZ report, though, I’ve been thinking about something else Wambach said at Georgetown.
We’re all flawed, she told the students. That’s part of being human, and we shouldn’t be judged solely by our flaws.
“It’s about how you handle it and what you do in the moments afterwards,” she said.
“That’s where your character is, and that’s who your character is.”