- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

For Bode Miller, Turin has turned into Dante’s Inferno — which might explain why so little snow has fallen there since the Winter Olympics began. Miller had a chance to be the Jean-Claude Killy of these Games, but he’s looking more and more like David Wells.

The connection between Bode and Boomer coursed through my mind as I watched America’s top skier plow through a gate in the super-G over the weekend. It was the second race Miller had failed to finish, though he deserved some kind of medal for remaining upright on one ski and avoiding a NASCAR-like crash. In fact, it’ll probably be a demonstration sport in the next Winter Games: monoskiing.

But to get back on message, unless Bode brings his A-plus game Friday to his weakest event, the slalom, he’ll leave Turin empty-handed — this a year after becoming just the second American male to win the World Cup overall title. And who knows what will happen after that? Heck, he might get jumped in a diner by a crazed midget and have a couple of his teeth knocked out, just like Wells did.

Or maybe this Olympics is Miller’s punch in the teeth for disrespecting his sport and mocking the whole idea of athleticism. You just don’t go on “60 Minutes” a month before the Games and talk blithely about Skiing Under the Influence, any more than you write a book claiming to have been “half-drunk” when you pitched a perfect game for the Yankees in 1998.

Wells, you may recall, tried to backtrack as best he could. He was misquoted by his collaborator, he insisted; he should have read the page proofs more closely.

“I went out the night before,” he said, “and now [the book] says I’m drunk that day. I wasn’t. I took some aspirin and had a headache.”

Unfortunately for Miller, there’s nowhere to hide. CBS has him on tape saying, “There have been times when I’ve been in really tough shape at the top of the course. If you ever tried to ski when you’re wasted, it’s not easy. Try and ski a slalom when … you hit a gate less than every one second. You’re putting your life at risk there. It’s like driving drunk only there’s no rules about it in ski racing.”

Technically, no, there are no rules about drinking and skiing, no breathalyzer waiting for you at the bottom of the mountain. But there are rules, unwritten ones, about discussing such matters on national television. It just makes the sport look rinky-dink, which was the last thing anyone wanted heading into Turin. There are already enough people who have qualms about the Games — about curling and sequins and demolition-derby skating. Why alienate any more?

(Never mind the example being set for all the Junior Bodes out there: Not only do the skis need to be waxed, kids, but the skier needs to be lubed, too.)

You make a comment like that, Nike isn’t going to be happy. I’m not talking about Miller’s sponsor, I’m talking about the other Nike, the goddess of victory. And so Bode has been denied in these Olympics again and again — fifth in the downhill, sixth yesterday in the giant slalom, Did Not Finishes in the combined and super-G. A shame, because this might be his best shot at the gold medal that eluded him in ‘02; he’s 28 and at the top of his skiing powers. Four years from now, he could be facedown in a snow bank somewhere.

(Indeed, Janet Jones has already bet $100,000, at 5-1 odds, that he will be facedown in a snow bank somewhere. She’s also plunked down $50,000, at even money, that four years from now Johnny Weir will be driving a bus.)

Miller issued the requisite apology before the Games. He apologized to his family, to his friends, to his supporters, even to the media for “not speaking with you guys very much” lately. But the gods, apparently, weren’t listening. Either that or they weren’t convinced of his sincerity; he didn’t, after all, say he wouldn’t drink and ski again.

Poor Bode. It ain’t easy maintaining such a persona, so edgy and hip, projecting yourself as the kind of guy who might hook a tip in the morning and tip a hooker at night.

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