Here is my impression of Bode Miller, alpine skiing analyst for NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, watching Neil Armstrong take humankind’s first step onto the surface of the Moon:
[Perfectly flat monotone.] “You know, it’s a solid run. He’s really not doing anything special. He’s got a good tuck, but not a great one, not the best we’ve seen. It’s just, these early conditions set up to make it much easier to walk on the surface of the Moon.”
Here is my impression of Bode Miller watching World War II medic Desmond Doss advance alone and unarmed through a hail of grenades and machine gun fire to aid and evacuate wounded comrades within mere yards of the enemy position during the Battle of Okinawa:
[Disappointed monotone.] “You know, it’s a solid run. He’s really not doing anything special. He’s got a good tuck, but not a great one, he’s certainly opening his chest up more than others we’ve seen to the constant oncoming barrage of deadly supersonic projectiles. It’s just, these early conditions set up to make it much easier to advance alone and unarmed through a hail of grenades and machine gun fire to aid and evacuate wounded comrades mere yards from the enemy position.”
Here is my impression of Bode Miller watching a beautiful baby take her first steps:
[Undisguised contempt.] “You know, it’s a solid run. She’s really not doing anything special. She’s taking a good line, but she really didn’t attack the first moments of her walking life. The way the next 75 years are setting up, there’s just really no chance for her to accomplish anything now.”
Here is my impression of Bode Miller watching Ernest Shackleton and five desperate, freezing, starving crewmen travel 720 nautical miles across some of the world’s most treacherous open sea in a goddamn lifeboat, then hike 32 miles overland to find help for their fellows stranded in Antarctica:
[Tired disgust.] “You know, it’s a solid run. They’re really not doing anything special. They’ve got a good line, but not a great one, not the best of the day. It’s just, these early conditions set up to make it much easier to travel 720 nautical miles across some of the world’s most treacherous open sea in a goddamn lifeboat, and then hike 32 miles overland to find help for your fellows stranded in Antarctica.”
Here is my impression of Bode Miller having the best sex of his life:
[All-encompassing boredom.] “You know, it’s a solid run. We’re really not doing anything special. We’ve had decent foreplay, but not great, not the best of the day for sure. It’s just, the way the conditions are setting up, if you don’t really attack the foreplay there’s just really no chance to make it up in the second half.”
Here is my impression of Bode Miller watching a bus filled with doe-eyed orphans plunge off a 10,000-foot cliff:
Here is my impression of Bode Miller watching that bus levitate back to the safety of the ledge:
[Scorn.] “Yep. Yeah. You can see, that’s just how the course is setting up today.”
Watching and talking about Olympic alpine skiing without sucking literally all the drama and excitement ought not to be a difficult task. It’s fast! It’s dangerous! It places downright absurd athletic demands on its participants! In the downhill and super-G in particular, the racers spend virtually the entire time on the hair-thin line dividing maximum aggression from the total, life-threatening loss of control. Give the job of providing commentary on this to the average bozo-ass layperson watching the action in a bar and you will get, at the very least, a voice that crescendoes now and again in bare-minimum recognition that world-class skiers rocketing down a twisty, bumpy, icy slope at interstate highway speeds is fucking tense and dramatic.
Give the job to Bode Miller, the worst and most poisonous broadcast sports commentator of my lifetime, and you get a dude talking about what should be some of the showcase events of the Winter Olympics like they are a dog that took a shit on his rug. Worse: Like they are a dog that took an entirely predictable shit on exactly the spot on the rug where it always takes a shit, exactly when Bode Miller knew it would take a shit there.
The poison goes beyond his deathly monotone. To hear Miller describe it, the outcome of an event like the women’s downhill—contested last night to his crushing, terminal disdain—has been determined by the time the skiers get out of bed in the morning, and possibly was determined by the time the youngest of them was born. The medal-winning runs happen because of a combination of favorable external conditions and fixed personal attributes over which the skiers have no real control or recourse and into which genuine insight is impossible. The early contestants post good times because they went early and did just enough not to squander advantages that all but guaranteed their spots on the podium, not because they raced brilliantly. The later contestants are wasting everybody’s time, because no matter how well they race the developing course conditions have doomed their efforts. You are watching the rote, bloodless recitation of a script written and published at the dawn of time. It’s like having the games narrated by Anton Chigurh, only without the enlivening possibility that he will murder someone.
A grisly, spectacular crash is disappointing but inevitable. A bad run is disappointing but inevitable. A good run that falls short of the medals podium is disappointing but inevitable. A gold-medal-winning run isn’t disappointing, but then again nobody in particular deserves any credit for it, because the skier didn’t do anything any better than anybody else, and more probably did many things much worse, but under more favorable circumstances; it was inevitable. Miller’s task is to make sure you understand that none of this has the capacity to surprise him in the least. The purpose of the Winter Olympics is to prove the Winter Olympics cannot get a rise out of Bode Miller.
He is like a vampire that sucks fun and drama out of sporting events. He has turned some of the Olympics’ most exciting and dangerous spectacles into dirges. Maybe in the 2022 Beijing games, NBC could have him provide commentary on something that can surprise him, instead. Like being lowered slowly into a tank full of hungry piranhas! It’s not very wintery but I will watch the hell out of it.