Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Commentator Frank Deford has some thoughts about an American who wants to win at next month's winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

FRANK DEFORD, Reporting:

You may be familiar with the saga of Bode Miller, a rather engaging, counter-culture rapscallion who is the defending world champion in downhill racing, the rare American who might take an Olympic gold medal in that event usually won by somewhat more dour Austrians.

Miller volunteered in both an article in Maxim Magazine and then on 60 Minutes, that he had mixed a booze and skiing cocktail. If you have ever tried to ski when you are wasted, it's not easy, he allowed. Now, there's some question whether he meant he was actually hammered or merely hung over when he pushed off downhill, but whichever, young Mr. Miller was hauled to the woodshed and with all the grace of someone undergoing a Heimlich maneuver, he spit out an apology.

So, to the distress of the more sanctimonious and abstemious amongst us, he remains on the United States ski team as the games of Turin approach. At a time when it is hard to pick up a newspaper without reading accounts of American athletes raping and pillaging, the rabid reaction to Miller's confession seems a bit much, don't you think? To be sure, alcohol has a long and sorry history as a boon companion for many of our sportsmen, but I suspect that, once again, Miller is mostly victim of the veneration of the Olympics. Somehow, they must be purer than other games.

Look, let us be real about this. Anyone in a showcase Olympic like skiing, is professional athlete, no different than anyone who makes a living playing for the Denver Broncos or the Detroit Pistons. Yes, should Miller win at the Olympics, the American flag will be raised and he will be serenaded with the Star Spangled Banner, but at the end of the day, he's just another pro who happens to come from the United States. But the Olympics cloak themselves in their pagan rites. They release the doves of peace, spout brotherhood, and suddenly, false piety is demanded.

The public expiation of Miller's sins was required lest he suffer the fate of Bill Johnson, the first American to win downhill gold back in 1984. When an exuberant Johnson was asked what the victory meant, he guilelessly spurted out, millions! and for that candor he was castigated. Lucre, like liquor, is not supposed to spoil the Olympic humbug.

What I liked most about the whole Miller folderol was that we kept being advised that the sponsors of the U.S. ski team were particularly upset. Yes, indeed I thought, and the sponsors of the NBC Olympic television show were licking their chops at the greater ratings that Bode Miller will engender now that we've outed him as fallen and flawed. So, Bode, I do hope you take the gold next month at Turin, so that all us Americans may raise a glass to you. Skol.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The comments of Frank Deford, Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated. Each Wednesday, he brings us a sober look at sports from member station, WSHU, in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford