Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bode Miller: A hero of mine

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I've watched so much of the winter Olympics, you wouldn't believe it. I was nearly oblivious to it before it happened and now it is the #1 reason to get up in the morning for me. I love the pitting of countries against each other (it's so much cheaper than war, isn't it?), I love many of these sports, and I love the winter scenery.

I could talk at length on the Olympics, but I just want to talk about Bode Miller at the moment. Someone was recently asking who my role models were. It was hard to answer a question like that off the top of my head. Looking at Bode at the Olympics, I'd have to put him up there.

Bode Miller is a hero because he wins at what he does but he also knows that winning isn't everything. He regularly says in interviews that medals are not important but how he feels when he's winning and if he's enjoying what he's doing. I'm not sure how many adult athletes out there really preach, "It's not whether you win or lose but it's how you play the game" and there are even fewer athletes who can make us believe them when they tell us that they're considering quitting in their prime because the sport.

I love how he does whatever he wants regardless of what other people think of him or say and he win on his own terms. What's more, he is also very self-aware of how people (mostly sports media) try to construct his story into their own. The classic storyline a sportswriter would use is "Bode fails, buckles down on himself, rights his wrongs and four years later comes back to win." But wait! Bode never said that he considered 2006 a failure. He never said he changed his radical views or dislikes the media any less. I've heard commentators attribute the change in Bode to his marriage and the inclusion of a son in his life, but not that Bode has never said that. Bode draws our attention to how he was close to winning anyway and that their theories about why he is successful now and now then, are only theirs alone. It's so interesting to watch the creators of the story try to bill it as such because it fits their story and conception of a hero better and Bode resist their characterization of him at every turn.

Bode's responses in his interview with Tom Brokaw and Matt Lauer could be characterized as somewhat antagonistic. He's virtually disagreeing with those guys at every turn, and the reason that the two reporters and the NBC anchorman who did the introductory segway never commented on how disagreeable Bode was, was because Bode's a champion now and his eccentricities are more acceptable. That just illustrates Bode's point further: that there's not too much difference between a champion or a failure but a couple seconds at most. What's more important is character.

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