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WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Once again, Bode Miller turned an Olympic news conference into his rendition of A Night at the Improv, taking full advantage of the microphone placed in front of him to test out his newest stand-up material. Some of it worked; some of it, not so much.
When the floor was opened for questions, Miller began his "Me Against the Media" act, the one in which he belittles the questions he's asked and berates reporters for asking him unintelligent questions about something he was quoted as saying just a few weeks earlier.
When asked to comment on his teammate Lindsey Vonn's shin injury: "I don't think any of us know anything about it. What we've heard about that is from you guys, and that's usually not the best source of information on stuff like that."
OK, that got a laugh.
When asked to expand on his comments from a few weeks ago when he said he was coming into these games "under the radar" because of the attention being paid to Vonn: "You people think coming in under the radar is like being a fighter pilot and you actually come in under the radar. Like that actually means something. It's a completely ridiculous idea. It's the Olympics. Everyone is on the radar here. If one of you guys were to come up here and compete, that might be flying under the radar."
It was a long way to the punch line, but again, another laugh. So he moved on to his self-deprecating act. Always a crowd-pleaser.
When asked about rumors that skiers from the United States and Canada would be racing in a "wonder suit" that has tested a full second faster than the old suits: "I think Ted [Ligety is] the only one who has the 'wonder suit.' I haven't been informed of anything wondrous about our suits. I wore the suit that I intend to race in today. If that was a second faster, then I'm in trouble."
When asked how he trains mentally, since mental preparation has become such a hot topic, Miller decided, since he was on a roll, to try out some new material.
"Did you read that in the newspaper?" Silence ... silence ... wait for it ... wait for it ... bomb. No laugh. Scratch that one from the set. And continue.
"Athletes have been putting effort into their mental training since athletes started training. The big shift the last 15-20 years has actually been to put emphasis on physical training."
"So, then, what do you do specifically, Bode?"
Here, Miller yawned, audibly, and acquiesced: "I just focus on the event and what I need to do for that course. I focus on the races. I'm excited to be here, so it's easy to focus on preparing to race well. There's no hypnosis techniques that work."
In the first 15 minutes of his act -- um, the U.S. men's alpine team news conference -- Miller referred to the Olympics as a circus, dismissed the idea that athletes place value on Olympic medals and then explained precisely why he placed value on an Olympic medal because it represents a lifetime of work and commitment, and then reiterated he was in Vancouver to (and here, I'm paraphrasing) go fast, be good, have fun.
But about halfway through the media session, it appeared as if Miller had grown as tired with his contrarian shtick as the media and his teammates, several of whom didn't field a single question. He nixed the standoff, and the stand-up, and began answering questions like an athlete who truly wants to compete in his fourth Winter Olympics. Which meant more questions for Miller and more silence from his teammates.
"I enjoy listening to it. He's funny, but there are a lot of opinions on this team," said teammate Steve Nyman. "That might be Bode's opinion on the weight of an Olympic medal, but my take is that World Cup victories don't come with a lot of pressure. To continuously win and win an overall title is impressive because it shows consistency. But to win the Olympics, while the whole world is watching, that is impressive. Last Olympics, I was in a place where I could have won and I let the pressure get to me. Now I understand how big it is. It's not just another race."
Tell that to Bode.