In some ways, he already has failed. No matter what Bode Miller does in today's giant slalom race, he will leave these Olympic Games with less honor than when he arrived.
And it's not because he did not win a medal in his first three races. We could forgive that. We have, in fact, made icons of those who have fallen short of expectations. Dan Jansen was once beloved for his many failures. Michelle Kwan is still heroic, despite her Olympic disappointments.
No, there is something else at play in the Bode Miller story. Something he has needlessly created with his petulance.
Miller has set himself up as a fraud. He has talked one way, and behaved in another. He has stretched, bent and twisted his iconoclast act until it is no longer so easily believed. And it's only getting worse.
He says he doesn't care about winning medals.
So why is he here?
He says he hates being famous.
So why does he keep accepting endorsements?
He says nobody understands him, but that's only because he paints so many self-portraits it is difficult to figure out which face is his.
I want to like Miller. I want desperately to like him. I have a great affinity for those who refuse to follow the crowd. I admire those willing to do or say what they believe to be right, even if it isn't popular.
The problem with Miller is every time he steps out of the mainstream, he takes a stroll toward self-serving.
His victories have brought him riches but, when he loses, Miller complains our society is too obsessed with keeping score.
His pictures were simultaneously on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and other magazines, yet he whines about the role of celebrity.
At best, he has trouble with self-reflection.
At worst, he is a hypocrite.
"It is other people who want me to win medals," Miller told the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. "I could give up tomorrow without having the slightest regret. I could keep away from this world for a year and then perhaps start to feel the desire to prove something to myself again."
So if these Games really mean so little to him, as he has suggested, why not go skiing in New Hampshire and allow someone else their Olympic moment? Why not give up the paychecks and adulation, if it's all so cumbersome?
Because Miller wants to have it both ways. He wants the perks that go along with his remarkable talent, but he does not accept the responsibilities.
What's potentially worse is the suspicion that Miller has allowed an opportunity to pass here without caring enough to grab hold of it.
This month, he could have become the most famous and successful Alpine skier in American history. And, even ifthose goals were not his prime consideration, wouldn't a successful two weeks in Italy also have satisfied his esoteric aspirations of being the best skier he can be?
Instead he has been spotted, almost nightly, in bars around Sestriere. Other skiers have insinuated Miller is out of shape, which may have contributed to a slow finish in the downhill. Even Miller has talked of how his goal last season was to capture the World Cup title and, having done that, how he was more determined to have fun this year.
Does any of that make Miller a bad person?
Absolutely not. It is his life to live as he chooses.
The problem is in accepting the accolades, the adulation and the money of sponsors, and then blaming everyone else for expecting so much from him.
"Some people say I make mistakes. I just say this is the secret of enjoying life," Miller told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I hate monotony. Why don't they leave me freedom of choice? People want to impose choices which aren't necessarily mine. That's the mistake people make."
What Miller seems not to understand is there is an implied contract between fans and athletes. An understanding that we fund their careers and, in return, at least expect an effort we can trust.
Now maybe Miller is in the best shape of his life. And maybe he has wanted to win as much as any competitor on the slopes.
But he betrays those intentions with his insistence that he doesn't really care about the race results. Or that we are too fixated on the leader board.
The impression he has left us with is that he really doesn't want to be here. And he's skiing the same way.
Perhaps, today, those perceptions will soften. Maybe he'll win. Or maybe he'll show enough disappointment in loss to make you think he cares.
If it isn't one or the other, Miller may soon get his wish.
We'll stop caring whether he wins.