By John Dodge–
CHICAGO (CBS) — In an Olympics that has generally lacked dramatic story lines for American athletes, Bode Miller’s tearful interview on NBC on Sunday provided some emotional spark but also angered viewers who said the exchange went too far.
Miller, 36, won a bronze medal in the Super G competition in Sochi on Sunday — his sixth career Olympic medal. During an interview with NBC’s Christin Cooper, Miller began to cry after Cooper pressed him on his emotions on winning the medal less than a year after his brother, Chelone, died of a seizure.
Asking athletes “what was going through their minds” at a key moment is a standard device designed to draw emotion and raw reaction. (Richard Sherman’s response to Erin Andrews after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC title is just one example.)
Critics took to social media to scold Cooper for pressing Miller on the death of Chelone.
The Tribune Co.’s Chris Dufresne argued that the interview wasn’t the best story for the Americans on Sunday. Rather it was the amazing silver medal run by Andrew Weibrecht.
“I do think the interview and subsequent reaction undermines the story of the day, which was Weibrecht’s unbelievable result,” Dufresne wrote.
“But hey, that’s television.”
Poynter Senior Scholar Roy Peter Clark told Poynter’s Al Tompkins that journalists can learn a lot from this interview. “There is a big difference between true emotion and contrived emotion,” Clark said.
“True emotion makes us cry at surprising moments. Contrived emotion makes us cry at expected moments. The narrative around Bode Miller was becoming an emotional cliche and the interviewer should have been cautious about not stepping over the line to play into that cliche.”
Cooper directed four questions along similar lines about Miller’s emotions. The footage, which lasted just over a minute, was dramatic, and a bit uncomfortable to watch.
For his part, Miller went on Twitter to defend Cooper.
NBC issued a statement, saying: “Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal. We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story.”
It was also a rare moment of high drama for NBC so far in this Olympics, as the big U.S. stars, such as snowboard legend Shaun White and speed skater Shani Davis, failed to win a medal.
The U.S. shootout victory over Russia in men’s hockey prelims was thrilling, but came without the geo-political backdrop of Lake Placid in 1980, not to mention the fact that NHL players didn’t participate back then.
The game, at least, made for some good nostalgia, for those who remembered that amazing “do you believe in miracles” moment in 1980.
Indeed, the lack of those story lines shifted a lot of the focus to other issues, such as Bob Costas’ eye infection.
There were other elements to Miller’s story.
He became the oldest skier to win an Olympic medal, and ranks second all-time among U.S. Olympic athletes in any sport (Apolo Anton Ohno has eight).
Miller also overcame knee surgery and an emotional custody battle for his young son.
Do you think the interview went to far, or were the questions appropriate in that situation?
Please leave your comments in the section below.