As the Olympics drew to a close last night, I found that the most disappointing–and annoying–aspect of NBC’s Olympic coverage was the huge amount of airtime given to U.S. skier and 2002 silver medalist Bode Miller. With a daredevil, nonconformist image only further enhanced by a recent “60 Minutes” interview, in which he admitted to, among other things, skiing in competitions while hung over from the previous night’s partying, Miller was featured prominently in numerous Olympic segments.
But then, in between those segments, we were treated to even more of Miller, with Nike commercials featuring Miller and asking us this important question: Are you a “Bodeist”? The message of the commercial seems to be that, somehow, Miller’s carefree spirit, disdain of the media (unless it involves a lucative commercial endorsement deal), and refusal to worship material things such as Olympic gold medals have something to do with Buddhism, and are qualities to be applauded and emulated by the rest of us as well. The only problem is that behind the clever word play and marketing spin, there is little substance to support the notion that Bode and Buddhism have anything in common.
From what I have read about Buddhism’s “Eight Steps To Happiness” or the “Four Noble Truths,” I am comfortable saying that Miller’s egotistical yet lackluster performance in Italy had little to do with inner peace, enlightenment, or compassion for all living things. Miller’s failure to medal in all five events he competed in had more to do with reckless mistakes, lack of focus, and, oh, yeah, a desire to party all the time. When Miller was interviewed by the Associated Press last weekend, he was far more intent on talking about nightclubs than skiing. Miller told the reporter, “I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” Miller also justified his Olympic performances and his behavior by adding,”People want athletes to cater to their image of what an athlete should be, but they also want them to fail, so they can feel like their screw-ups are all right. If I make a priority shift, I’ll make it, because it’s best for me.”
Comments like that make me wish that perhaps Miller would take a hint from that Nike ad and look into Buddhism for real. Miller’s attitude could benefit from some of the principles of Buddhism, such as Right Speech, Right Action Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness. However, my prediction is that by the time Miller decides to shift his priorities from blaming others for his problems and selfishly indulging in his own entertainment while being heftily paid to represent his country, no one, including his commercial sponsors, will still care.