A friend at work today described patriotism as “pretending to care about snowboarding once every four years … for your country.” I must confess, I love, love, love the Olympics. Sure, most people agree that the Summer Olympics are more compelling than the Winter Olympics (I blame you, curling), but I really get a kick out of totally immersing myself in a series of sports that I know little about played by competitors who I don’t know from Adam. However, this Olympic season is bittersweet for me. I really miss the 24/7 Olympics Coverage being focused almost constantly on a man who, to me, represents all that is good in the world of skiing: Bode Miller.

The 2006 Torino Olympics were held while I was in college, back when four hours of classes and waking up before noon constituted a “busy day.” Accordingly, my roommate and I remained glued, in our pajamas, to our television set for the duration of the games. Luckily for us, Bob Costas introduced us to the man, the myth, the legend, Bode Miller. Now, before you get too attached, please understand that Bode did not fare well at the Olympics that year. In fact, it would be fair to call him, as many have, one of the biggest busts in Olympic history. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! If you know Bode, as I pretend I do, you understand that it only adds to his charm.

My roommate and I learned many things about Bode that year. Looking back on it all, I think fact has combined with lore, but what it basically amounts to it is this: he seems like a ton of fun. He told Bob Simon during a 60 minutes interview that at least some of the major accolades he has received as a skier were accomplished while wasted. I remember hearing that he refused to submit to performance-enhancing drug tests until he was promised they would not test for weed. When Nike agreed to sponsor him, his only request was that he have his own trailer, wherever he go, and that no one enter it without his permission. Does that wish sound familiar? That’s because it is a slightly more grown-up version of the “no girls allowed” treehouse you wanted as a 5 year old.

Finally, I vividly remember one of those “Learn About These Athletes” videos sponsored by NBC where the reporter visited Bode in his home in upstate New York. To me, this story solidifies that all rumors, urban legends, and fact combine to solidify Bode’s standing as the next Chuck Norris. I have to assume the reporter arrived at Bode’s house knowing that things might be strange. I imagine he had done his research and knew, for instance, that his subject grew up with hippie parents who had named Bode’s sister  Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart, and they lived in a house with no running water. Still, the purpose of the interview was to get an understanding of what exactly made Bode Miller the record-shattering athlete he was. Appropriately, the men stepped into what used to be a farmhouse but was now an anexed part of Bode’s home. When asked how he trained for the Olympic sports, Bode raised his hands, to show abandoned and rusty farm equiptment that littered the floor of the former farmhouse. The reporter looked bewildered. “I push it around,” Bode said.

That’s right. Bode Miller, the man preparing to represent the United States of America in the Olympic Games, was preparing by pushing old farm equipment around in what was essentially a shed. U-S-A! U-S-A! The good news to come out of this was that my roommate and I realized he probably had a land line in his house since cellphone reception was unlikely to make it over the mountain. With a simple Google search, we found his number and called. While giggling, we asked the woman who answered if Bode was home. “No, he’s not,” she sighed. ” I bet you already know that he’s in Torino.” I guess we weren’t the first people to think of this idea. Whatever! We totally drunk dialed Bode! It sealed the connection I already creepily felt with him, and have felt ever since.

After reading all of this, it should come as no surprise that Bode Miller did not do so well at the 2006 Olympics; he failed to medal in any of his events. I remember watching him fail miserably on TV while the sports announcer was recalling that he had been at a local bar until 4 or 5 that very morning. That’s my Bode!

Now, remember I said this moment was bittersweet. Bitter because these Winter Olympic Games feel incomplete without the “real athletes” rolling their eyes every time they get asked how Bode Miller is. But also sweet, because it turns out all that farm work has paid off! Bode earned his first Olympic medal on Monday.

Consider me full-time Team Bode! Now, if you’ll excuse me, my other Olympic love, Johnny Weir, needs my support.

Advertisements