How much longer will Bode stick it out? |

How much longer will Bode stick it out?

Steve Yingling

What do we make of Bode Miller’s troubling comments following his success at securing one of the most elusive titles for American skiers?

Constant badgering from fans, media and sponsors were more than Miller could deal with as his celebrity grew in 2005.

He was so fed up with the snowballing attention that he told a USA Today reporter after winning the World Cup men’s overall title last weekend that it may take “a lot of beers” to fire him up for next year’s Winter Games in Torino.

“I don’t know how this is going to be some kind of giant springboard,” he told the USA Today. “I don’t know where I’d spring from here – except away.”

Taking those final two words at face value means that Miller needs a respite from living under a microscope or he’s ready for a career change at 27.

That Miller has yet to win an Olympic gold medal, the opportunity to collect one or two in Torino should motivate him in the offseason.

But Miller isn’t the easiest athlete to figure. He grew up in a remote setting in Franconia, N.H., and he’s never embraced what is expected of today’s superstars.

When he came close to winning the World Cup overall title in 2003, he was asked at the American Century Championship what he thought his chances were of eventually winning it.

“I don’t ever focus on the overall. It’s sort of a cumulative effect of having a good focus in each individual race,” Miller said.

Some would question that since Miller’s 11 did not finishes are believed to be a record for an overall champion. The frequency of Miller not finishing races went up as the season progressed, allowing his once insurmountable 400-point lead to nearly slip away. He reminds me of Kevin Costner’s “Tin Cup” golf character who always went for broke instead of making a smart and conservative shot when it was appropriate.

“How can you have a 400-point lead, then disappear off the face of the earth?” 1983 champion Phil Mahre asked an Associated Press writer. “The guy has so much talent and just throws it away.”

The last Americans to win overall titles – Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney – were gregarious people who took full advantage of the generous fanfare surrounding their success.

That it has taken more than two decades for an American to climb the highest mountain in ski racing shouldn’t be lost on Miller. For a sport that during a nonOlympic year has a media throng as large as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Christmas card collection from developers, Miller should enjoy the extra attention.

Miller, however, isn’t the ambassador of the sport the U.S. was seeking.

His coach, Phil McNichol, said his star can’t be handled like other team members.

“He doesn’t like structure,” the coach said to the USA Today. “It was not the way he was brought up. He is constantly elusive to sitting down and mapping down that structure for the ultimate goal.”

Miller isn’t the first winter sports superstar to rebel again the U.S. Ski Team’s rigid guidelines. Shaun Palmer, a three-time boardercross gold medalist in the Winter X Games, and hot dog Glen Plake could have carved out significant careers as World Cup skiers, but the structure chased them away.

Travis Ramos was no different, retiring two years ago at 26 after the U.S. Ski Team snubbed him during the 2002 Olympic selection process.

We’ve seen football stars such as Barry Sanders and Robert Smith walk away at the height of their careers because they sought some privacy or they lost the desire to compete.

Will Miller walk away with his World Cup overall title and Olympic silver medals in the giant slalom and combined?

There is no way one can attempt to live the life of a loner when you’re the star of the show. They say you can never go back in time, but maybe that is exactly what Miller needs at this point – at least until he is overcome with cabin fever.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or

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