Biggest Snub of KOBS: Michael Phelps

June 05, 2008 |

Well, I’ve already made my case for selecting Gary Gait to the Field of 32. I’m going to step off that soapbox and stand on another one.

Just like the NCAA basketball tournament, there are bound to be snubs. And this is perhaps the biggest snub in the history of any bracket tournament anywhere…seriously…

In this case, I’m going to stand up for the Baltimore swimming community; a community I know in and out because I have been a part of it for about seventeen years. The BIGGEST snub in this contest is most certainly Michael Phelps.

This Rodgers Forge native secured eight medals in the 2004 Olympics, six of which were gold medals. He is the second-most decorated athlete in the history of United States Swimming, right on the heels of Mark Spitz and about a mile ahead of Gary Hall, Jr. He will most certainly surpass Spitz in this year’s Olympic Games.

I have been privileged enough to swim alongside and train with Michael Phelps during the three years I spent in middle school at North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC), and I swear to God he was born with gills. NBAC is the same swim club that has produced medalist backstroker Beth Botsford, Olympic stand-out Anita Nall, and 2008 gold medalist hopeful Katie Hoff.

I can tell you from firsthand experience, after seeing this guy’s work ethic and dedication to both the sport of swimming and Baltimore, that he embodies what it means to be the King of Baltimore sports…not to mention the United States of America.

He is a Baltimore guy, a homegrown American athlete, and an international phenomenon. How did we miss this one? It just boggles my mind…

This kid owns every swimmer in the pool, “laughs” at the competition, and we’re just shrugging him off and placing people like Brady Anderson, Ted Hendricks, George Kunz, and Scott Manning (among countless others) ahead of perhaps the best hometown athlete in the history of Baltimore without even batting an eye.

If you don’t think so, wait until August when he’s standing on the podium with 8 gold medals around his neck, saluting the American flag with one hand and donning the Maryland flag on the other sleeve while the National Anthem plays over the loud speakers. The haters will most certainly be singing a different tune.

Yeah, yeah…I can hear you all now…it’s just swimming. Just like Gary Gait was the greatest player in the world in his sport, but it’s just lacrosse. If you think that, get in the pool and race Michael in the 200 meter butterfly… see how long you’ll last. You’d leave the pool crying if you didn’t have heart palpitations beforehand…I guarantee it.  In fact, try and race one of my swimmers over at Hillcrest in Parkville. They’ll give you a race…

Michael Phelps set the world record in the 200 meter butterfly 3 months before his 16th birthday to become the youngest American to ever set such a record. In the 2004 Sydney Games, Phelps tied Mark Spitz, winning four individual gold medals. He will surely break that mark this year in Beijing…easily…

To date, he has set or broken 14 World Records, 4 American records, and 3 Olympic Records…piece of cake, right? Not at all…well, maybe for him…maybe for the most feared athlete in the 2008 Olympics.

Phelps lives in Baltimore; he trained in Baltimore for the majority of his life…he graduated from Towson High School in 2003…again, how did we miss this guy in the Field of 32!?

Phelps has been quoted as saying he intends to return to Baltimore after training in Michigan following the 2008 Olympics, joining Bob Bowman, my old coach, when he leaves the University of Michigan, saying: “I’m not going to swim for anybody else. I think we can both help the North Baltimore Aquatic Club go further. I’m definitely going to be in Baltimore next year.” NBAC has announced that Bob Bowman is leaving the University of Michigan to become the club’s CEO in 2009.

Phelps is dedicated to this city, and he even has a road named after him. Regardless of who gets the play-in vote, Michael Phelps should have been an automatic bid, no questions asked.

EDIT: I guess I should have clarified this earlier…while I FULLY understand the rules and parameters of the contest, I simply think that if we’re going to do a tournament that ALL sports should be represented. I know that, under the current rules of the contest, he does not qualify…but he should.

The contest isn’t “The King of Baltimore Football, Baseball, and Indoor Soccer,” it’s “The King of Baltimore Sports.” To me, that means all sports. This contest was meant to spark debate and conversation which is why it’s so much fun, and this is just my opinion.

Now I’ve also heard many people say, Drew included, that Michael Phelps is not a professional athlete. That is completely and utterly false. He  has many sponsorships and Speedo is offering him a million dollars if he wins seven golds this summer in Beijing. If he gets paid, he’s a professional, right?

Finally, swimming IS a team sport. Ask anyone who swims.

-AJT

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