Phelps’ swim at M&T Bank Stadium last was spectacular!

August 17, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

Being a sports fan in Baltimore, you must admit that Saturday night was truly one for the ages. Mixing Baltimore’s two greatest passions in one night – the first home Ravens’ game of the Harbaugh/Flacco era with a post-game Michael Phelps water celebration on the giant screens – and you have a night that will never be replicated.

Here is the video from Saturday night that I shot to capture the memories on wnsTV.

For 13 summers we’ve suffered these miserably, boring and forgettable NFL preseason games and finally a swimmer from Towson shows up from halfway around the globe to make one special.

I’ve been saying for years that the NFL should consider booking some post-game concerts of value, which would at least keep people in the stadium long enough to see a Hootie and The Blowfish or a Boston/Styx doublebill or a “Legends of Hip Hop” or Peter Frampton (all shows that have been in the city over the past seven days). I figure the concessions they’re losing the second half alone would create a windfall and having people stay in general and not seeing a sea of empty seats would be a good idea for the league.

But Phelps in Baltimore (live via satellite), swimming for his eighth gold medal just 20 minutes after the end of the “real” preseason game, trumps anything this side of U2 or the Rolling Stones at this point.

What’s shocking to me is that anyone would even consider leaving the stadium once the Ravens made the invitation. It was certainly the most dramatic moment in the history of the stadium, when you think about it more than anything Ray Lewis or any Raven has ever done there. And Baltimore was given the most golden opportunity to experience the magic together, as a community. At least 30,000 people actually did leave but about 15,000 remained and have a story they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren. It was truly a gift to be a part of the most spontaneous and genuine outreach for local sports since the Orioles’ days at Memorial Stadium. If you stayed, good for you! If you left, well, you missed out (and shame on you!).

On the field, the Ravens gave no one any hopes or false expectations about what I’ve been writing for months: there’s a good chance this team is going to stink. There will be plenty to say about the quarterback debate but if the rest of the team is lousy – a bad secondary, a non-existent pass rush and no protection on the offensive side for whatever lame duck gets under center – but what difference does it make if it’s Kyle Boller or Troy Smith or Joe Flacco at this point? There’s not enough space here today to address all of the issues the team has just three weeks out from the Sept. 7 opener against Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have gone into the witness protection program since the start of the Phelps Olympics and kickoff of the purple two-a-days in Westminster. The Birds actually quietly signed their No. 1 draft pick (never an easy thing) on Friday, welcoming University of San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz with a big-league $3.2 million bonus. Let’s hope it works out better than Adam Loewen has.

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