Before Bode Miller won the bronze in the downhill yesterday, we spoke with him about that "60 Minutes" interview, how people perceive him and what, if anything, he'll do to change it.
Darren:You bowed out of the sport for a while and quit the ski team. Why come back?
Miller: I guess like a lot of things it's always a bunch of variables that come together. I guess the main one was the ski team. They were responding to my questions and requests and they were excited. Before that, it wasn’t that I lost the excitement but the general program I was on just wasn’t as enthusiastic, it wasn’t as inspiring. I think when I got back together with them, we started talking, it got me excited to ski. That’s the most important thing as an athlete. If you’re excited to be participating in what your sport is that’s great. And I think that’s when you can be a great role model for kids and stuff. If you’re just out there doing it because its what you’re supposed to be doing or because its what pays you then that’s really a negative for everyone involved.
Darren:What happened at the 2006 Games in Torino?
Miller: I wasn’t inexperienced. It was already my third Olympics. I wasn’t fresh at this. I was in a place where I wasn’t happy about my situation. I didn’t feel like people were looking at the Olympics like I felt they represented -- something positive. I felt like people were counting medals and looking at people like if you didn’t win, you were a disgrace. And I think that bothered me a lot and it was a problem leading up to it for months and months and it kept nagging at me. I want it to be the old Olympics where the Olympic creed is about going and participating in an international sport. It's about how you fight, whether you fight the battle or not and I think I feel a whole lot better about that now.
Darren:It was everything or bust.
Miller: It’s perception too. Everyone was looking at me as if I was the favorite coming in there, even though I didn’t necessarily believe I was the favorite. Skiing isn’t like Olympic swimming or track where you have a fixed set of elements. There is really a huge amount of variables involved in skiing and a favorite doesn’t mean much in skiing. There are certain events that are completely out of everyone's control that in most cases ended up deciding the winner or loser of the race. You know that’s something you learn to deal with as a skier, but when you're faced with describing that or dealing with the repercussions of that with the mass public it can be frustrating because you don’t have the time or energy, or even the venue, to possibly describe that to everyone. Everyone kind of has to interpret that.
Darren:What did you think of the "60 Minutes" piece, which centered on your skiing drunk comments the day after winning your World Cup.
Miller: That was a story about the most successful moment of my athletic career. What I’d been working for for 25 years. To celebrate with my family and all of that stuff was what we were doing. My whole team was there and our board of directors were there. It was great day for USA Skiing. It had been 25 years since an American had won the overall World Cup. And we felt like it was earned. We worked unbelievably hard and a lot of people were involved and I felt like it was important for me to share that with a lot of people and to tell the story without having to sugar coat it and without having to hide what we did. The fact that we celebrated and we had drinks was important to me. It's important to be able to stand up for what you think is right and deal with the repercussions. The fact that "60 Minutes used it to sell their story, as opposed to what they were doing before, which was an American hero makes good kind of story, was little bit disappointing. I was not surprised by it, but it's frustrating.
Darren:Some sponsors left you after Torino, but you filled the gap pretty quickly with many sponsors including Nike , Head (skis), Kjus (clothing) and Superfund.
Miller: The sponsors that I’ve been working with are amazing. One of the things I think is important and it would help if the public knew about is these sponsors aren’t a flash in the pan. These are sponsors that I know, that I talk to, that have invested the time to understand what my message is. If you catch the little bit that is in the mass media, I agree it’s easy to misunderstand me. These guys are proud to be a part of my program and proud to be sponsors of mine and I’m proud to have them because we understand each other. They understand, at the end of the day, that my messages are all really positive. They are all trying to do the right stuff. It's just with the situation the way it is with the mass media, it's frustrating. There’s just not a good way to deal with a lot of it.
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