Much ado about nothing .. or not
OK, Bode, you apologized.Whatever. We all know that it was a purely political move – it’s hard to associate the phrases “Bode Miller” and “politics,” no? – after you mouthed off about skiing drunk on “60 Minutes” on Sunday.Truth be told, though I don’t think it’s a good lifestyle choice to be careening down the slopes at 70 mph with a buzz on, I don’t care. In fact, I think Bode-gate is the best thing that’s happened to alpine skiing in the United States.Let’s get one fact out of the way. Apology or no apology, there was no way that Miller was going to get kicked off the U.S. Ski Team. Bode’s the team’s biggest meal ticket. He wasn’t going anywhere. And it’s also a safe bet NBC which is likely showcasing its coverage around Bode was not going to tolerate his dismissal.Ding, ding …But back to why this is all good. People outside of hamlets like Vail and Beaver Creek are talking about skiing. On ESPN’s “Around the Horn” Wednesday, Bode came up and Kevin Blackistone of the Dallas Morning News put it succinctly, “When was the last time we were talking about a downhill skier on this show? Never.”
Ding, ding, ding, ding.My parents, bless them, who couldn’t tell a downhill from a slalom – the sports gene comes from my mom’s fondness for baseball and that’s it – were actually asking me about this Bode guy after Sunday’s broadcast.Trivia question No. 1: Which man won the French Open last year? Time’s up. It’s Spain’s Rafael Nadad. Aside from the few in the county who follow tennis religiously and will e-mail me with indignation, you didn’t know.That’s because men’s tennis is devoid of personalities. Yes, there’s Andre Agassi, but this is nothing like the 1980s. Remember the cyborg-like Bjorn Borg, the loud Jimmy Connors and the even-louder John McEnroe. Everybody was watching tennis then.That’s entertainmentWe like sports for the athleticism its participants show, but it’s also entertainment. Take a look at another individual sport – golf. There’s the aura of Tiger Woods, everybody’s favorite, Phil Mickelson, the common man’s golfer, John Daly and the nose-to-the grindstone guy, Vijay Singh. And that’s just naming a few. Their differences in personality make for great theater and great golf.
Everybody and their brother was rooting for Mickelson to get his elusive first major in the 2004 Masters. Next spring, it was Tiger fending off Chris DiMarco with an improbable chip on 16. Mickelson’s “leap” for joy and Tiger’s ball quivering on the edge of the cup before falling in are indelible moments in the history of the sport.Now, back to the Bode-ster. Skiing is a sport that most of America only cares about once every four years. Most of America has not seen a race live, so the average sports fan doesn’t know the tremendous excitement and athleticism that World Cup ski racing provides.Bad boy neededWe need some spice here and Bode’s bringing it. He’s the bad boy of skiing. He drinks. He has the I-don’t give-a-you-know-what attitude on and off the hill. He’s not a poster child for the Emily Post school of manners. (Attend one Bode Miller press conference, and you’ll get the picture.)Trivia question No. 2: What’s was the most-watched event in Winter Olympics history? It’s not the Miracle on Ice. It was women’s figure skating in 1994 – Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.Now, I’m not suggesting that Bode hire somebody to whack Daron Rahlves on the knee. Well, come to think of it … no. But do we get the point? Personalities and rivalries can elevate a sport.
Speaking of Rahlves, we’ve got a natural rivalry here. Bode the bad boy versus Daron the nice family guy. We all saw it play out last month at the Birds of Prey with the two swapping places on the podium in downhill and giant slalom. All the hype going into the Olympics will be Bode, Bode and Bode. You think Daron Rahlves, this country’s best downhiller, will feel slighted?Toss in the mighty Austrians with Hermann Maier, Benny Raich and Michael Walchhofer and company and, you’ve got yourself same great skiing and a show into which the average American can dive.So Bode, nice job. There was actually no reason to apologize.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado