World, keep waiting; Bode won't be what you want
TORINO, Italy -- It was dusk, and Bode Miller was walking alone on dirty concrete, on his way to the parking lot behind the Olympic village. His white Atomic ski boots, hanging over his shoulder, banged against each other. The crowd of reporters that had trailed him from the finish area had finally turned back, satisfied with the scraps Bode had thrown them and seemingly satisfied to see another failure from the champion who has become their favorite target.
Miller was disqualified from the men's combined event that he had been leading only moments earlier. And now, after signing an autograph for a boy who had approached with a flag and a Sharpie, Miller talked about the strangely routine feeling he was having about a setback most would consider devastating.
"For me, it just seems so normal," he said in the quiet, trying again to explain what he said few will accept as his truth.
Miller said he "looked out the window in the finish area and saw "I wasn't on the [leader] board any more. And I didn't really think anything. I thought, 'They must have [disqualified] me.' And I asked my coaches, 'Was I DQ'd?' And they said, 'Yeah.' And I asked 'Why?' And they said, 'You straddled a gate.' I was in the process of putting my boots on, so I just took them back off."
For Miller, the moment in which he went from a nearly sure Olympic gold medal to an empty RV wasn't loaded with any other meaning. No guilt. Not even sadness. It just was. Which is what drives most people crazy when they watch this genius race: He won't do what they wish he would, namely, be devastated by failure. Or overwhelmed by hope. Or intimidated by the size of the stage he's on. Bode Miller holds up a mirror those who cannot be brave, for fear of the pain of failure. If he would just throw a temper tantrum, it would make us feel a lot better about ourselves.
"It's weird. I'm caught in this twilight zone. I recognize the Olympics have so much history and so much meaning and so much impact, and the implications are so big," Miller said. "It's a weird thing for me, because when I crash in an event where I was slated to win, and I was out, and that was it. I was like, 'All right, it will still go on without me.' I think that's confusing to a lot of people."
Bode's father, Woody, who was on hand to watch his son in the men's combined event, said that although he thinks Bode could have prevented some of the media criticism, he'd rather Bode be true to himself when he deals with the press.
"I'm fine with what he says," Woody said. "I think it's all right. I am not surprised he is as calm as he is. It's always reassuring when I see him."
The world will get to see Bode race three more times at these Olympics: Saturday in the super-G, Monday in the giant slalom and Feb. 25 in the slalom.
Meanwhile, Miller's 21-year-old teammate, Ted Ligety 's future got brighter. Skiing with a calm that felt more like naiveté, Ligety simply skied, as he always, does: Boldly, simply, utterly unaffected by the world that shouted around him. It looked a lot like Miller.
And then, it was over, just like that. Ligety was the champion. His teammates Scott Macartney and Steve Nyman had hoisted him on their shoulders, fireworks went off and a few minutes later, Ligety took off his boots.
"For a kid like Ted, this is awesome," said Miller. "He's getting the full adrenaline out of it. For him, this is the Olympics. It has the focus it's supposed to have."
Sure, we should enjoy Ted Ligety, every moment of him. But we'd be wrong to run Bode out of town. He could teach us something.
Carrie Sheinberg, three-time national ski racing champion and top American finisher in the alpine slalom event at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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