Bode's antics disrespectful

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

I don't like what you like.

I don't value what you value.

There. I am cool. Cool as Bode Miller.

I have been aware of Bode Miller in something other than a peripheral way for only a day now. Already I am tired of him.

Miller is the first American man in 22 years to win an overall World Cup ski title. These days he is also up to his pouring elbow in hot water for telling 60 Minutes he parties so hard that he sometimes heads downhill drunk.

"There have been times when I've been in really tough shape at the top of the course," he said.

"Talk about a hard challenge right there ... If you've ever tried to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy."

Miller, 28 going on 16, said he figured to ski drunk again.

You need to know a few things about Bode Miller. He is very good, he is very fast, and he crashes or falls a lot, maybe a third of the time.

He was raised by hippies and home-schooled. He has a thing about authority and a deep distrust of the corrupting influence of money. He hates drug testing, uses his his own homemade training equipment and travels to events apart from the team via his personal RV.

Miller has a chance at five Olympic medals in Turin. Not that he cares because caring wouldn't be cool.

"I kind of take pride in the fact that I do things my own way," he told 60 Minutes. "So whether somebody wants me to get five gold medals or whatever it is, I sort of feel like they're all other people's concerns and issues, not really mine."

All this not caring and sticking it to The Man makes Miller very popular with fans and, therefore, with Nike.There always has been big money in railing against the established order that values money over everything.

U.S. ski officials have about had enough. The 60 Minutes interview prompted upset sponsors and angry phone calls. U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association CEO Bill Marolt flew to Switzerland to deal with Miller.

Ski coach Phil McNicol told the Associated Press he is close to dropping Miller from the team.

"He has always tried to be a rebel, which was okay because it was fun sometimes and actually brought a lot of thinking outside the box and pushed the barriers," McNicol said.

"However, it has grown to a place where it's no longer about being opinionated and outspoken. It's about how much do I really want to be here."

The drinking element is offputting.

Imagine NASCAR Nextel Cup star Jeff Gordon telling 60 Minutes that yep, sometimes he got so soused the night before, he would have blown over had they kept a breathalyser on pit row.

"You've got to balance between what is cool and what's stupid," International Ski Federation secretary general Sarah Lewis has said. "This does not come across as too cool."

There will be no sanction of Bode Miller. It was an interview, for heaven's sake.

REAL ISSUE

But here's the real issue. It's the problem with many self-made men or women, regardless of whether they were schooled in Compton, Saskatoon or, in Bode Miller's case, beside the woodstove.

They forget.

They forget the network of people who put them there. Teachers, siblings, parents, babysitters, streetcar drivers, cops, girlfriends, mentors, scout leaders, rabbis.

For athletes, that list multiplies. "Being on a national team is a privilege," Alpine Canada president Ken Read said, "and with privileges come responsibilities.

"You want to respect the fact that there are a lot of people behind every single athlete. It starts with the coach and support staff and runs right through all the volunteers and all the young athletes out there on the hill. There's still a pretty strong link between you and them."

Odds are, that's what the big shots from the American ski federation will stress to Bode Miller.

At the starting gate, a skier can be as much of an individual as he likes. But only an idiot thinks he got there by himself.


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