Bode Miller and U.S. ski coach together: That must mean. . .
The U.S. ski team has called a press teleconference for Thursday featuring Bode Miller and the head coach of the U.S. men's alpine team, Sasha Rearick.
Miller has had nothing to do with the U.S. team for the last two seasons, skiing as Team America with his own coaching staff, so the idea of him on the same teleconference as a U.S. coach must mean he is returning to the fold for the 2010 World Cup or the 2010 Olympics or both.
Of course, "must'' and Bode don't often go together, so don't bet the farm that the controversial and supremely talented skier will be back.
A few acres of rich bottomland seem a pretty safe gamble, though.
Miller, who turns 32 on Oct. 12, is unquestionably the greatest men's skier in U.S. history, with two World Cup overall titles, four world championship gold medals and two silver medals at the 2002 Olympics.
He left the 2009 World Cup circuit with a month to go, saying "at this time I find more happiness doing other things than being on tour.''
One of those was being with his daughter, Dacey, born Feb. 19, 2008. It was nearly a year later before anyone reported Miller was a father, and he first talked about her publicly then.
Miller was widely criticized for his behavior and attitude (I was among the critics) before and during a disappointing 2006 Olympics, where he purposefully left the impression of being more interested in partying than winning and left with no medals in five races.
Following the 2007 World Cup season and years of distancing himself from U.S. ski team officials, Miller made a clean break by forming his own team -- and therefore paying his own expenses and his coaches' expenses on the circuit.
That worked in 2008, when Miller won his second World Cup overall title. But the arrangement began to disintegrate last season, when most of his team staff eventually decided to move on.
After a good start to the 2008-09 season, with two World Cup second places in the first five weeks, Miller struggled badly. He was particularly off form at the 2009 worlds, failing to finish three of his five races and winding up with an 8th in the downhill as his best result. I joined John Meyer of the Denver Post in concluding Miller had become irrelevant.
Meanwhile, women's superstar Lindsay Vonn became the face of U.S. skiing -- and the planned focus of NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Maybe that will suit Miller perfectly. After all, he often has chanted an anti-hoopla mantra -- then sounded hypocritical by noting how much he enjoyed the spoils of the hoopla.
The guy is an astonishing skier, whose fellow competitors are awed by his skills, particularly his ability to turn apparent disaster into triumph. Rivals think of him as a genius on skis, the Mozart of the Mausefalle.
It would be terrific if he can show that for at least one race at the 2010 Winter Games and avoid making a fool of himself in the down time.
If, as it seems, that is what the press conference is about.
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: What Bode MIller did on his summer vacation: paddle with Paige
Hemmis of "Extreme Makeover'' in an ABC Television revival of the
Superstars competition. Credit: ABC television