Medals? Just satisfy
your ‘subjective criteria’

Feb 14, 2006 5:01 AM

I hope none of you, Dick Cheney included, will take offense at my traitorous ways and send the thought police, but I have had all I can take of Bode Miller. I can’t stand the guy and his popoff puffery. I can’t bring myself to like a guy named Bode. I find him a bore.

I’m all for the red, white and blue, but in my case my face turns white and my red blood turns blue when I come across more nonsense on the All-American Boy, whether he is sliding down the slopes of Sestriere or guzzling booze in the basement bar that serves as the American skiers’ "headquarters."

I find skiing, whether downhill or cross-country or giant slalom or Super-G or simply waxing the skis, repetitive and redundant and boring on television. Ever since Miller won the overall World Cup title last year, the drums have been beating about him, and tom-toms are not my taste.

If I have to watch skiing, I would far rather watch Lindsey Kildow or Julia Mancuso or Kristen Clark or Libby Ludlow, bundled up and helmeted and goggled as they are, and only guess how lovely they might look in just tight sweaters and form-fitting latex ski pants without all the insulation and packaging.

Instead, I get Bode Miller.

I’m seven or eight thousand miles from Sestriere, but I have a proxy there, whether he knows it or not. His name is Rick Morrissey, and he writes for the Chicago Tribune. Under a headline Sunday that read, "If talking were an Olympic event, Bode Miller would be a winner," he summarized my thoughts on The Mouth That Roared.

Morrissey wrote, "All that for this? The outrageous statements? The controversies? The magazine covers? For fifth place in the men’s Olympic downhill? Dude, if you talk the talk, you have to be able to ski the ski."

Morrissey noted — and by the time you read this he may be right — that Miller still can and may win Olympic gold, but he pointed out that the downhill is skiing’s glamorous macho event. He wrote that it is to skiing what the long ball is to baseball.

Right or not, he questioned Bode Miller’s oft-repeated reputation as a rebel by quoting him after his fifth place finish in the downhill: "You have a moment of disappointment, but after that, what can you do? My subjective criteria was satisfied."

I’ll give Miller this. He is innovative. In more than half a century of covering sports of all kinds, I have never heard an athlete before Miller say something like, "My subjective criteria was satisfied."

Nor, I might add, have I ever heard an athlete, Olympic or not, say "Screw medals. I don’t really care about medals”¦it’s not about the medals. It’s about the effort and the hard work. We’re all happy with what we did. Really, nobody is disappointed at all."

That introspective analysis came from Steve Nyman, who finished 19th in the downhill, and it indicates either a new breed of playboy athlete or a dull-witted dunce.

The Olympics, Stevie Wonderboy, are all about medals.

That’s how people keep score, or used to. It was us against them. It was Jessie Owens winning a handful of them in Berlin in 1936, when German superiority was the issue. It was what our track and field athletes a generation ago were judged by in sprints or the 400-meters, or the mile, when we used to be the world’s best.

We’re not anymore, sadly, and if we have stopped counting the medals it is because we don’t win many of them anymore.

If guys like Steve Nyman don’t get it, his coach does. Phil McNichol, who had the pleasure of coaching these pleasure seekers, put it a lot differently than Bode Miller or Steve Nyman. "It’s disappointing," he said. "We had two of the best guys in the race (Miller and Daron Rahlves, who finished 10th Sunday) and we came up short. It was shocking. I just wish it was shocking the other way."

The skiers may win some events by the time you read this, but it won’t make much difference to me. I’ll remember these winter Olympics, and our shortcomings, by Steve Nyman’s philosophy: "Screw medals."

That’s how far we’ve fallen.