I love the Winter Olympics. It’s something I spend four years looking forward to. It’s the kind of thing that can get people interested and excited for sports they otherwise never follow. Hockey is already my favorite sport, but the Olympics is a great time to show it off. Football and baseball may have a stronger foundation in American heritage, and basketball has the 1992 Dream, but hockey has America’s most celebrated moment in Olympic history. Every four years, people suddenly become experts in figure skating, speed skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding, luge, bobsledding, and curling…and it’s awesome!
Since the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Bode Miller has been a household name in the United States (the only other skiers I could name off the top of my head are Lindsey Vonn and Picabo Street, neither of whom are competing in Sochi). The New Hampshire native skier is now 36 years old and competing in his fourth Olympics. We’ve seen him evolve from American hero in 2002, to drunken antihero in 2006, to the golden redemption story in 2010. He’s really talented, and he really loves to ski, but it’s not always about competition for him. He’s the Rob Gronkowski of skiing. He trains hard, and competes hard, and at the end of the day, he parties hard. There’s a lot to like about that approach to life.
Miller won three Silver Medals in Salt Lake City, and a Gold and a Bronze in Vancouver, but was shut out in Turin in 2006. There were high expectations for Bode after his breakout performance in 2002. With great success comes a responsibility to be a role model and carry yourself like a gentleman. Bode Miller didn’t see it that way, though. Even in defeat, we could see that Miller was incredibly talented, but it was frustrating to watch as tabloid after tabloid came out with more stories of all the partying he was doing in Italy while he wasn’t winning anything. In 2010, at 32, Miller shut everyone up by winning two medals, including his first Gold. The other day, he recorded the fasted time in the Olympic qualifying trial, and looks poised for another medal. The guy is really good at what he does. He takes a sport that is both thrilling and dangerous, and he makes it look easy. I hope he’s there in South Korea when he’s 40, just a guy going skiing as fast as possible because it’s really fun. He’s at a stage in his career where he can still perform at a high level, but it’s uncertain how much longer he can keep that up. It’s a lot like the way people talk about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who are around the same age as Miller, but those guys have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl every year. There are other ski competitions, but none that get the kind of audience and prestige as the Winter Olympics. Time will tell, I suppose.
I love the Olympics, but sometimes people take it too seriously. Sure, these athletes are representing their country, and there is a lot of pride and honor in doing that, but people don’t pursue athletic achievement just for the honor. People learn to ski because it’s fun. They play hockey because their friends are playing. Bode Miller gets to show off the hard work he’s put in on the world’s biggest stage, and he’s having a good time while he’s there. He gets it.