Bode Miller’s magical mystery tour continues
VAIL — Maybe it’s the unforgettable first name. Maybe it’s the attitude. Maybe it’s the camper with the live-in chef who goes around Europe with him. Maybe it’s the air of superiority.
Whatever it is, most people tend to treat Bode Miller like a rock star.
They gawk at him. They want a piece of him. They whisper in hushed tones when he is close by.
Members of the press ask hard questions to try to understand how Miller does what he does — which tends to be whatever he wants — and yet still roar past the world’s best skiers.
Take this exchange which took place at Miller’s private press meeting Wednesday at the Colorado Ski Museum.
A European reporter tried to ask Miller how it is possible that he has reached the most exclusive club in World Cup skiing — being that he is only the fifth skier ever to win in slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill after his two wins at Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend — and still a drink beer the night before a race.
Or, a few beers.
Unfazed, Miller stared at the reporter with his alert eyes and then purposefully took a pull off his beer before answering.
“Most of the time, especially in downhills like this, I get up at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Miller said. “If I go out ’till midnight and I go to bed between 12:30 and 1 a.m., I’m getting between seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep, which is more than the normal and is for sure more than I need half the time. I don’t go out and get drunk usually. People like to make up stories, or spread rumors or whatever. I go out and have a couple beers or a drink or whatever and hang out and then I go back and go to sleep.
“Sometimes, it’ll make me sleep better. Sometimes, it relieves tension. Sometimes, it’s just socializing trying to balance out a lot of things right now in my situation that I don’t like at all. And, I’m just trying to seek a balance there.”
Master of improv
Most engrossing about Miller is his unpredictability. He is a boon for great sound bites because he speaks without reservation. He is to ski racing what Robin Williams is to improv standup — the best in the world at making it up as he goes. He seemingly has no governor built onto his turbo engine, which means that every start, every turn, every jump is a constant war waged between success and disaster.
So far, this season it has been all success. By winning in Lake Louise in both starts, Miller metaphorically pronounced that he is the front-runner for this year’s overall crown.
His three consecutive wins have already drawn the ire of some higher-ups in the Austrian Ski Federation since Miller switched to Atomic skis this season, and along with teammate Daron Rahlves, is using since-retired Austrian star Stefan Eberharter’s ski technician.
The indignation stems from the notion that Miller jumped to the front of line when it comes to getting the fastest skis in the world, and that it’s one of the main reasons he has raced so incredibly well up to this juncture.
“I think it’s pretty common sense that they would say that,” Miller said. “They’ve kind of been dominant on Atomics for a long time and I know that the federation feels like they have claims to Atomic in a way. But, the fact is that Atomic is not an Austrian company anymore. It’s owned by a Finnish guy, and even if it was an Austrian company, that doesn’t mean the Austrian team has any rights to own them or have exclusivity. They’re a ski company, and if they’re in a pool, they’re allowed to give skis to whoever they want.
“I mean, they came out and asked my technician. They claimed I skied on Eberharter’s skis. I haven’t run on his skis yet. None of his skis that he’s skied on in the past ever, even in a training run, have I skied on yet. It’s all just pointing fingers. That’s what happens when something unexpected happens. Everyone wants to point fingers and it’s totally natural. I’m not surprised by it at all.”
The finger pointing may stop if Bode is again to fall off, as he did last season after arriving at Beaver Creek with the overall lead. After not finishing in all three starts, Miller gave way to alpine’s other rock star, Hermann Maier.
So how does one handicap this season?
Can Miller finally win the overall this year after finishing fourth two seasons ago and second last year? Can he finally silence all of his critics who say he is too stubborn? Can he quiet those who say his decision to race in both the technical and speed events is too much for him to master?
Miller doesn’t really care. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks he should or shouldn’t do. It’s his life and he’s not letting anyone else grab the wheel or even tell him how to drive.
“That’s kind of always been the story with me,” he said. “People are always trying to decide what’s doing what for me, and at the end of the day, it’s exactly the same as it was 10 years ago for me. I really don’t care what anyone else thinks or what they say or what. I’m going to do what I want to do and at this point, it’s kind of gained some credibility. I’m not out there (expletive) around. I’m out there trying to win races and I’m doing it.”
And maybe that’s why he gets the rock-star label.
Maybe that’s why people tend to cower around him — because his self-confidence can literally suffocate a room of people.
How would you feel standing next to Mick Jagger?
When the same reporter pressed again Wednesday as to how Miller gallivants around like a regular 27-year-old when the stakes are so high, Miller didn’t flinch.
Before Miller could try and answer the question the reporter balked and said, “It seems that you do everything different than the Austrians do.”
“I don’t know why people would be surprised about someone being a normal person,” Miller said. “It’s a statement. You’re making a statement. Make your statements. People say, ‘Oh my God, you’re doing exactly what the Austrians do and that wouldn’t be right either.’ And, you’re entitled to what you want to say. You can write whatever you want.”
And so the magical mystery tour continues.
Who knows what Bode Miller may do this season. He may become the first American to win the overall title since 1983. He may win today on the super-G course or he may fall prey again to another one of his fantastic crashes.
The magic is in the mystery, and Miller, up close, is unlike anyone else in the start gate.
Which is why he is so fascinating to watch.
Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.