The hot column

Wayland Radin

Downhill skier and American bad boy Bode Miller had long been considered to represent the United States’ best chance at Alpine gold since the 1994 Olympics. Had he succeeded this year, he would have won just the fourth American Alpine gold medal. However, he did not succeed, nor did he seem to care much that he had failed. Instead he reacted to his disqualification in the combined event by saying he had straddled – skied over rather around a slalom gate – more times than most people had finished a slalom run. Perhaps instead of regarding his disqualification – and seemingly everything authority related – with complete nonchalance, he could tell himself and the reporters at the bottom of the run that so much experience should have made it that much less likely and regrettable that he would have straddled the gate. Instead, Miller seems to believe that his experience
is an excuse for failure and not caring. He showed up just minutes before his start time with untested skis for the downhill race, seemingly relying on his own hype rather than preparation and perseverance.
Perhaps it is not simply a matter of perseverance, however, as Miller has successfully recovered from at least one serious knee injury, but of his understanding of what it means to be a professional, much less an Olympian. We Americans reward our outspoken and irreverent athletes with gobs of media coverage and millions of sponsorship dollars and then have the gall to expect them to behave responsibly.
Unfortunately for Miller and the United States, the Olympic Games are not just another professional sporting match. They are, for better or worse, a world stage on which one displays national pride. Miller’s attitude is decidedly un-Olympic and so it is perfectly fitting at this point that a young and unknown Ted Ligety won the event and the United States’ fourth Alpine gold.