Originally Posted by SkiRacer55
...I'd never entered this fireside chat, so let me exit with the following thoughts:
- Yep, on paper, there's no way in hell Bode could win on the ATP, or the Challengers circuit, or the Futures. On the other hand, Bode's made a career out of doing things that are impossible on paper. Witness the 2002 SuperStars, where he basically schooled a bunch of NFL studs at essentially their own game. I dunno if Bode is even interested in trying to play serious tennis, I just think it would be a great adventure if he did, regardless of the outcome.
- Yep, he's been off his feed in slalom as of late. On the other hand, he's done some amazing stuff in speed events, something I honestly didn't think was possible after the horrendous crash he took at the Worlds in 2001. On his day, he's still the best today, maybe the best ever. If you haven't had a chance to do it, go watch video of the 2006 Beaver Creek MDH or the 2007 Lauberhorn. The paper results...his winning margins, which were big...don't do the performances justice; you have to see it to believe it. On two of the toughest, fastest World Cup DHs on the curcuit, Bode crushed the course and made the rest of the field look like a bunch of J5s.
- He departed from the USST structure without acrimony and with a lot of class, IMHO, as quoted in the Ski Racing article:
"This was a difficult decision for me to make," Miller said. "Despite any of our past differences, I have been part of the U.S. Ski Team for 11 years and I cherish the relationships I have built with my teammates, the coaches, staff, sponsors and trustees. I do not believe I can excel and perform at the level I demand of myself under the guidelines the U.S. Ski Team has presented. I will continue to ski as an American under the U.S. flag, and am proud to do so."
Note especially what he says about continuing to ski as an American, which is not the way it often works in Europe, where dual and triple citizenship often allow racers to get the best deal for themselves regardless of the country they race for.
- Similarly, again from the Ski Racing article, there doesn't appear to be a lot of ill will from his former coaches:
""I'm adjusting to the news and I wish him only success," [Phil] McNichol said Saturday as he prepared for an offseason training camp at Mammoth, California, next week. "Hopefully we can still have a positive working relationship."
- Next, what is the sum total of Bode's sins? Basically, he skied hung over in a World Cup race and spoke his mind, which is what I think people really don't like. Like a lot of athletes in the limelight, pretty much nobody is neutral on Bode: you either love him or hate him. Same also of a superstar in another event: there's a whole bunch of people who think Roger Federer ought to be nominated for sainthood, and there's a whole other bunch of people who think he's an arrogant, boring little Swiss cuckoo clock who deserves to have his block knocked off. But with Bode, it's a little more extreme. I think the fact that he dances to his own tune and succeeds mightily is what a lot of people find wanting in his behavior, and it really bugs them.
So Bode did some bad stuff...what about other professional athletes? I think there's a reasonable case for saying that John Daly played while drunk on the PGA. Take a look at our national pasttime; by any reasonable measure, the great Babe Ruth was a drunk and a womanizer. To take a modern example, take a look at Barry Bonds. Take a look around the NFL, where players routinely get thrown in jail for DUIs, getting popped with drugs, beating up wives, girlfriends, or both, getting into bar fights, or all of the above or worse. Compared to that, I think Bode's infractions are relatively mild.
- I know "Yeah, but the USST has rules, and everybody has to follow them." I'm just guessing, but I don't think Bode really has a problem with rules per se. What I think he has a problem with is authority figures who mindlessly exercise their authority without any real rationale for doing so. As a Vietnam Era vet, and a citizen who was unfortunate enough to have a couple of liars and crooks like Johnson and Nixon for president, I'm with Bode if he has a problem with authority figures who don't walk the talk.
As I said, I don't think the major conflicts on the team were between Bode and the coaches. I think they were between Bode and Bill Marolt. Again, it's just my perception, but I'm guessing that Bill Marolt...who is into winning at every level, remember?...didn't care all that much about Bode's drinking as long as he kept winning World Cup races. I think the problem was that the USST donors and sponsors, most of whom are major corporations, pressured Marolt into trying to get Bode to agree to a "no drinking, no wising off" policy.
Which is kind of ironic, and hypocritical, if you think about it, because how do a lot of business deals get made? That's right, over drinks after 18 holes of golf. I'm not at all saying that that's a way of life for the USST sponsors, nor am I saying that their management isn't on the up and up. By any reasonable measure, the USST sponsors specifically are playing the game fair and square and coloring between the lines. It's just that, in the wake of Enron, Quest, and a few other similar malfeasances, I generally no longer have an automatic respect for any leadership, political, military, corporate, whatever. You want my loyalty? No problem...show me your integrity, show me your loyalty to me, and you can be my leader any time. And my guess is that Bode's got the same frame of mind.
To close, whatever Bode's faults may be, he's a great ski racer, and by any reasonable measure, fiercely loyal to the people and country that helped him to be a great ski racer. Don't we owe him some loyalty in return?