Hey Bode, Do It for Bill Johnson!

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on September 16, 2009 3:49 pm

It’s been 25 years since Bill Johnson called his shot and won gold in Sarajevo.  Called his shot, Babe Ruth style, by saying “I don’t even know why everyone else is here.  Everyone else is here to fight for second place.”  That didn’t sit too well with Austrian downhill great Franz Klammer who, at that time, called Johnson a “nose picker.” 

Before Sarajevo, Johnson had won all of one World Cup downhill.  It came in Wengen when Johnson barely avoided a huge crash, veered off course, found his way back on line and onto the podium (video above).  It was a victory that many of his competitors dismissed as a fluke.  They similarly dismissed his ballsy Sarajevo prediction. 

As if there’s not enough pressure at the Winter Olympics already.  You call it, you best be right.  Biill Johnson was right when everyone around him thought he was all wrong.

To this day, Bill Johnson’s rebel rise and tragic fall is the greatest ski story ever.   Granted, it will be 26 years (not an anniversary number like 25) come Vancouver Winter Olympic time, but could there be a more fitting bookend to the Bill Johnson story than for Bode Miller to compete and win gold?

Many folks are just not geared towards the team environment.  In surfing or golfing, the non-conformist finds solace in an individual sport.  For a team fix, he/she can join the softball beer league. 

It’s an odd paradox, the team concept in ski racing.  Ski racing is 99% team except for two minutes on race day.  It’s those two minutes, however, that supersede everything else, including the team, and decide ultimately how an athlete is judged.  They don’t give World Cup victories or gold medals for being a good teammate.

Bill Johnson was not geared towards the team concept.  And from all appearances neither is Bode Miller.   It’s no surprise that Bode has often cited Bill Johnson’s brash victory in Sarajevo as a huge inspiration. 

So, Bode, even though I’d like to tell you to do it for Bill Johnson – that a victory in Vancouver would be a symbolic victory for non-conformists (I count myself as a member of that team) and a fitting footnote to the Bill Johnson story – I know that simply can not be the case. 

Do it for yourself, Bode.  All of us will be super excited and happy to watch you compete one last time.

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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