Friday, February 03, 2006

Bode Miller...skiing super villain.

The Olympics are coming. Yippy.

This year all eyes will be on Bode Miller, the brightest star on the US skiing team. Bode became the center of controversy when he intimated that he's skied while carrying a layover buzz from the night before.

Media-types were aghast. How could a world class athlete be so irresponsible as to abuse alcohol the night before a competitive event? And of course, what about the poor children out there who heard the 60 Minutes interview? Yes, the children. They'll all start drinking heavily so they can be just like Bode...Oh, the humanity!

Except that nobody with a semblance of a life ever watches 60 Minutes. I only heard about Miller's comments on ESPN when every talking head chimed in with his eight cents. Yes, I said eight cents because they spent four times the amount of coverage necessary to babble on about it. Big frigging deal, a drinking skier. Whoa, nelly! Stop the presses.

I ski. I drink. I drink and ski and I have skied drunk. It happens. Yes it can be dangerous and there was an incident I hope to never repeat, but I generally stay in control. I can also tell you that a lot of kids are skiing under the influence of substances a lot more controlled than booze and Bode Miller's got nothing to do with it.

The problem isn't Bode Miller, it's us. Our society doesn't give a rat's paw about skiing, snowboarding, skating or curling until the Winter Olympics are here and then we want four years worth of coverage. After the Olympics these athletes fade back into anonymity and many aren't even able to compete in the following Olympiad. One hit wonders.

Why do you think Michelle Kwan can't win Olympic gold? She's a dominant force in the World Championships but come Olympic time you can almost hear her gagging. Summer Olympian and gymnastics champion Blaine Wilson is another example of someone who couldn't deliver on his sport's biggest stage. What about Captain Soul Patch, the skater guy, Apollo something-Ono...remember him? Barely, right? In the last Olympics he crashed and burned even though he was a heavy favorite to win it all. Do you suppose the barrage of media coverage might have distracted him just a bit?

It's the pressure. These athletes are virtually unknown throughout their careers except for a two month window once every four years when the Olympics take center stage. Then we insist on knowing everything about them, where they're from, what they eat, who they think is cute and how they hang their toilet paper. The reporters sift through every athlete's bio to find some human interest angle that will tug at our heart strings. With Miller we were fed some story about how he grew up in a backwoods cabin with hippy parents, with Ono we got the troubled youth angle. Suddenly these kids can't go anywhere without having a press corps filming every move and examining every detail.

Some crack under the pressure and their performances suffer, offers lash out and say stupid things. Even if Bode Miller does opt to down a case of High Life the night before he skis, is it really our place to question him? It's not like he'll hurt anybody but himself.

Don't we have bigger fish to fry? In sports, we have Barry Bonds and his ever expanding head set to break all time baseball records but nobody is questioning his motivation for bailing out of the World Baseball Classic. The man has defied age becoming bigger, stronger and faster in his late 30's, but we seem more concerned with Bode Miller's attitude than we are with Barry Bonds cheating with steroids, hormones and rhinoceros testicle extract.

In Hollywood we still don't know which actresses are stuffing their fun bags, and how many studly actors are really gay. Come on Tom Cruise, we know that you snagged Katie Holmes because she really thinks you and Giovanni Ribisi are just playing Twister in your rumpus room. Naked? Yeah, and the latex fist really is a trophy from your days on the Bare Knuckles fighting circuit. Heterosexual men might listen to Air Supply, but not together. Come clean. Your Thetans are calling.

And let's not even get started with politics. Man alive, if the real reporters were as aggressive with their coverage of real news as these wannabe sports hacks are with forgettable sporting events, we might have all the world's problems solved. This country seems more concerned with how many shots Bode Miller will do the night before the Super G, than it is over the whole wire tapping scandal.

Here's an idea. Let's dispense with the melodrama. Let's stop pretending we care about the athletes and just use the time to show more action. Every year Bob Costas waxes poetically about the bigger meaning of the games, and we are subjected to long boring stories about the trials and tribulations some athlete endured along the way. I don't care. Go out and do your thing.

This year we'll miss 15 minutes of skating coverage so NBC can inundate us with Michelle Kwan's story of Olympic failure and her last chance at redemption. It's not like anybody has stolen Olympic glory from her, she had her chances and choked. Boo-friggin-hoo. Get the job done or go home. Undoubtedly we'll have the Bode Miller saga rehashed and NBC will try to get him cornered long enough to recant the confession he made on 60 Minutes. How about you just show the guys skiing down the hill really fast?

I'm a sports fan, I want to see sports performance. Keep the soap opera drama out of it.

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