The Bode Miller interview is old news now, but I am behind in my writing! I have read opinions at all the media powerhouse websites, including Newsweek, New York Times, and the Washington Post. The main question these journalists ask is whether the interviewer went too far, causing Bode to emotionally break down.
My opinion: I think the reporter should have stopped after the first question and the camera should not have followed him for another minute as he crumpled to the ground in tears. Give the man some privacy! But I also want to ask, what is really under the rage over the Bode interview?
That leads to Lesson Four: we cannot bear to see a hero cry.
Olympic athletes are media stars, always portrayed as perfect and superhuman. Emotionally they are supposed to be stoic, tough, able to withstand the pressure of an Olympic performance. Behind the scenes vignettes about their sacrifice and commitment add to the Olympic aura. Athletes contribute to the perfect portrait during interviews as they show good sportsmanship. Everyone walks away with their head up and the American public loves living in this Olympic wonderland for two weeks. Historically, when athletes can no longer portray their superhuman status or when their competitive edges start to fray, they retire from competition. We will have nothing messy in our Olympics.
Enter Bode Miller. He is in a custody battle and lost his brother. He is aging, perhaps just a tad too old to be competing with the young guys. The snow conditions are terrible and his performance falls way off. He is an emotional mess. We see Bode’s wife cuddle and kiss him to make the pain go away. Finally, we see a messy meltdown that no one wants to witness in an Olympic star. And we certainly don’t want to see him cry; our culture still believes that grown men don’t cry. I am a fan of Bode and I do not mind seeing grown men cry. Sometimes, I help men navigate through their grief. But not everyone wants to see emotional displays from their tough guys. Someone will pay.
Enter the NBC reporter, Christi Cooper. Let’s shoot her for making a grown man cry. That is what we do: blaming and shaming others instead of wondering why we are so uncomfortable about a situation. By shooting the messenger, we distract ourselves and others from the uncomfortable scene of Bode having a meltdown. Of course, all of this will fade in a few weeks, but I hope we learn an Olympic-sized lesson about claiming our own emotions, letting a grown man have his cry, and about shooting the messenger who delivers some discomfort into our living rooms. Life is only perfect at Disneyland.