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Ray Grass: Bode Miller best leave the bottle back home

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 7:22 a.m. MDT

You have to wonder, at times, what some people are thinking . . . or not thinking.
Take Bode Miller's now-famous interview on "60 Minutes" last Sunday where he admitted, no, seemed to brag about being guilty of "RUI" or racing under the influence.
Tell me, please, why anyone would go before millions of viewers and brag about being "wasted" in the start gate? Brag about wins and an unconventional style, or about an interesting upbringing, but racing while drunk?
What he failed to address is whether or not he won while intoxicated. My guess is he didn't win. Miller has had his share of poor showings. As reigning downhill champion, he hasn't won a race this season.
Interestingly, this whole story line is starting to sound all too familiar.
Remember Bill Johnson, gold medalist in the Olympic downhill in the 1984 Games in Yugoslavia . . . a rebel, definitely not a team player, disliked by most, but respected for his talents?
After winning the medal, he was asked in an interview what it meant to him, and he responded it meant millions of dollars. That one statement continues to haunt him today.
He was his own worst enemy. Sponsors shied away. He broke from the team and tried to start a pro downhill circuit, which failed miserably. He got into drugs and drinking and fell deeply into debt.
He attempted a recovery by trying to make the 2002 Olympics. In order to do it, however, he had to sell his gold-medal skis to his mother for $5,000. Again, he failed miserably.
Miller seems to be on the same course. It's said he's not well-liked by others on the team. He's also been critical of the team for not promoting him as much as he thinks it should.
He was sanctioned by the international governing body this year for failing to submit his equipment for a routine check and threatened to quit racing. He's criticized coaches, complained about the anti-doping rules, claiming they were too strict and has threatened to start his own ski-racing tour.
Obviously, he hasn't talked with his one good friend, Eric Schlopy of Park City. Schlopy left the U.S. Team to race on the now-defunct Pro Tour, then struggled to return to the team when it folded.
Let's face it, ski racing has not been too well-received here in the United States. Skiers have never gained the level of recognition other athletes have in this country.
The Mahre twins, Steve and Phil, once told me that during their glory years they could walk through the busiest airport here in the United States and no one would recognize them. But do the same in any European country, and they would be mobbed by fans.
My guess is it would be the same with Miller, even though he has received far more TV time than the Mahres ever did.
What I find interesting is that his sponsors, most notably Nike and Barella pasta, have, in a way, condoned his drinking and skiing. In a rather contrite statement, a Nike representative said drinking and skiing isn't condoned, but said nothing about asking Miller to reform, at least while racing.
Barella simply said it was standing behind Miller.
The threat of a loss of sponsorship, I'm sure, would carry far more weight than a mere request from a coach.
The problem isn't that Miller parties way into the morning hours or that he drinks, heavily at times. It's his choice. But, it's not too much to expect him, while a member of the U.S. Ski Team, which is supported by public donations and has made it possible for him to become one of the best skiers in the world, to be at his best in the start gate.
Miller is, unquestionably, a great skier. And, he is considered America's greatest hope in the upcoming Olympics. And it could well happen, if he choose to leave the bota bag at home.


E-mail: grass@desnews.com

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