Column: Bode deserves better
VANCOUVER, B.C. – You happy now, America? Finally willing to give Bode Miller his due?
Or is one bronze Olympic medal not good enough? Too late. Wrong color. Wrong Olympics.
Admit it. You were so ready for this guy to just go away, to slink back to the New Hampshire woods after his flameout in Turin and never bother you again.
But here he is. In your newspapers. In your living room, with a lead-in from Bob Costas.
He’s back at the Olympics, back on the podium, and he deserves your attention.
Why? Maybe because he’s the greatest skier in U.S. history, the most decorated, the most versatile. Because, as much as you hate to admit it, he already has three more Olympic medals than Lindsey Vonn and more than any other U.S. skier.
Not that he needs your approval. Never did.
Skiing is an individual sport, and despite what you’d like to think, Bode never pushed out of the start gate for you. If you can’t accept that, that’s your own problem.
So he didn’t care about the medals and the trophies as much as you did. He once lost one of his World Championship medals in a bar, and he also shattered one of his World Cup overall globes – skiing’s most coveted prize – while carting it back from Europe.
He even considered doing the most unpatriotic of things and not racing in the 2006 Olympics because he had a bad feeling about the hype machine taking on a life of its own and saw the huge fall for which he was being set up.
All you wanted to see was medals. He said he didn’t judge his skiing on prizes they handed out afterward. But he opted to feed the beast anyway – who wouldn’t? – then flopped miserably right before your eyes.
Then you devoured him.
You cursed him, ripped him and blamed him for not caring as much as you did.
It was Bode’s fault, not yours, for expecting the world from him.
The national team, trying to cover its butt, opted to let him walk, pulling his funding and forcing his hand to go out on his own.
He hired his own coaches and ski technicians, paid one of his buddies to cook his meals, and then headed off to win another overall – a feat much more difficult than winning one Olympic race.
You were more than happy to forget about him while he kept adding wins, and skiing through injury and fatigue, all the while burning through his own money and even considering retirement before this season.
You moved on to another five-event skier, one who said all the right things, and looked great on the cover of a magazine, and couldn’t care more about winning and making her country proud.
Who could blame you? Who wouldn’t?
America is a country of winners. You’ll forgive drug cheats and law breakers, but you don’t tolerate apathy.
Bode didn’t deserve another chance.
Until now, maybe.
He rejoined the U.S. team this season because he said he wanted to race at the Olympics. And he said all the right things after netting the bronze Monday with a gritty downhill run.
He talked about being motivated, emotionally involved and embracing a special moment. He sounded absolutely un-Bode-esque.
“It was clear that this was not a World Cup, everyone was feeling something different,” he said in the post-race press conference. “It was cool for me. It was sort of what I had been looking for. That was the feeling I’ve been searching for, and I let it build up. I was real nervous before I went, but excited nervous, not anxiety nervous. I felt great.”
Yes, these still very well could be Lindsey Vonn’s games. She’s got five chances to win a medal, and If she does so with that bruised shin, you’ll only love her that much more.
And if she doesn’t, you’ll never blame it on lack of trying.
But, right now, today, Bode Miller deserves your respect. He deserves to be acknowledged.
He deserves to be seen for who he is: the greatest American skier at these Winter Games.
If you can’t do that, then maybe you’re the one with the problem, not him.
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