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Is beach volleyball the rising star of the Olympics in America?

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Is beach volleyball the rising star of the Olympics in America?

Posted on 11 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Every four years the Summer Olympic Games seem to capture the imagination of the American public and it’s the strangest thing – folks who normally wouldn’t be engaged by a 100 meter sprint on a track or a 4X100 swimming medley in a pool are suddenly glued to their TV sets awaiting the next semifinal heat and getting to know these athletes we call “world class.”

And for a few weeks, we all seemingly stand at attention of the balance beam or the high dive podium. But then, almost like clockwork and presidential elections, most of these sports go back into a four-year hibernation in the minds and hearts of the American public.

Some of these major international sports – like soccer or basketball – are well engrained in every facet of American life and already have a huge clamoring for the athletes who makes tens of millions of dollars “playing” their game as a vocation and not a hobby. And then there are the weightlifters and badminton players who wallow in relative obscurity, even during the Olympic Games themselves as an agate type or a footnote on the TV broadcast.

But after watching parts of beach volleyball games over the first week of the Olympic Games and seeing the social media stream talking about the once-again dominant performance of Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh Jennings I’m starting to think twice about whether this is the one “niche” sport that could become far more mainstream in America in the coming decade.

At WNST, we took phone calls on it. Folks were tweeting us about it. And it almost made you want to buy a ticket and watch these girls – and yes, even the fellows – play sometime soon.

 

 

 

Back in May when the Preakness was in Baltimore, the tour stopped at the Inner Harbor. I even met Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers during the Alibi Breakfast at Old Hilltop. I felt some of the presence of players and fans as I walked through the downtown area. It was a buzz, albeit a relatively small one. There are beach volleyball courts literally three blocks from where I live and I see folks playing socially most weeknights. And let’s be honest, everyone has played some volleyball at a picnic once or twice or in Ocean City.

You don’t have to know much about the sport to realize there’s certainly something incredibly compelling about these two female phenoms, who have written the Babe Ruth-like first chapter in the history of the sport.

May-Treanor & Walsh Jennings have now struck gold over the past three Olympics but can the sport catch on beyond their Olympic appearances, which act as a P.R. machine for whatever it will grow into and become in America? And not just on the far sexier women’s side of the net.

And, yes, I did mention the sex. Beach volleyball has certainly got sex appeal – again on both sides of the nets — with tall, bronze, sculpted athletes and the not-easily won over crowds in London via Brasil were large and enthusiastic.

Really, it was amazing to see what a tough ticket the beach volleyball games were and how the sport has evolved into a theatrical production – borrowing elements of NBA dancers, loud popular music and riveting athletes who pump the crowd up

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Revisiting, Michael Phelps is ___________ as the local hero returns to Baltimore

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Revisiting, Michael Phelps is ___________ as the local hero returns to Baltimore

Posted on 06 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been quite the week for Michael Phelps, as the local hero has once again stolen the show in London for the 2012 Olympics and will come home to Baltimore as the most decorated athlete in the history of the planet.

Ten days ago, before the Opening Ceremonies, I tested the waters of local opinions with a simple, open-ended statement on Facebook and Twitter – “Michael Phelps is ________.” I also wrote a blog regarding Phelps for #VisaGoWorld regarding his significance and reputation around Baltimore.

Some took turns praising Phelps for his accomplishments in the pool and for purchasing Meadowbrook Swim Club and giving back to his almost cult-like sport of swimming by inviting local kids into the pool to find fitness and inspiration.

Others mentioned his indiscretions, his reckless behavior of youth and his general boorishness around Baltimore.

Everyone – love him, hate him or envy him – mentioned his mutual love of Baltimore sports teams and the local pride that comes with his roots here in Towson.

But now with 21 medals – and an almost unimaginable 18 gold medals – what will become of Michael Phelps here in Baltimore as the local hero, especially now that his career in the water and on the world stage appears to be over?

This whole swimming thing is quite different from the adulation showered on your “normal” athlete. We’ve all had a chance to watch Ray Lewis play or even have our parents tell us about Johnny Unitas. We’ve all witnessed some of the Cal Ripken magic and know about Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer and some of us even can collect the bronze statues or bobbleheads.

But for Phelps I find it rather odd that most locals have never seen him swim a race in person. He’s been the best in the world at what he does for 12 years and I’ve never met a person who could tell you anything about his accomplishments in the four years that elapse in the blink of an eye between Sydney and Athens, from Beijing to London.

All of the glory – but all of it truly “made for television.”

Phelps will return to Baltimore sometime later this week and I’m assuming that the Towson government won’t shut down for a day to hold him a parade this time. I’m assuming that Baltimore won’t shut down Fort McHenry and the streets of the city to fete him later in the fall. Believe it or not, the cost of paying police and shutting down streets back in 2008 was quite the ticket for the local taxpayers.

All of the attention, adulation and pomp and circumstance back in 2008 seemed more than enough. The hero worship thing has to have become tiring, even for Phelps, who seemingly couldn’t care less about all of the praise and rock star treatment.

Phelps visited with Bob Costas on the NBC set last night for 30 minutes and much of the conversation was illuminating in regard to how Phelps sees his future.

His ever-present mother Debbie Phelps has clearly been publicly and privately imploring her lad to swim four years from now in Rio in an attempt to add to his collection of rare, precious metals.

Phelps held his final relay gold medal up for Costas and said, “This will be the last Olympic gold medal I’ll ever win. I’m done.”

He almost brightened up on the set when he talked about working with children and traveling the world.

But as I’ve mentioned many times over the past four Olympics that Phelps has attended – it’s swimming. People are only going to get so excited about his sport or him, and by the time football season starts five weeks from now in Baltimore anything regarding the Olympics or gold medals or even Ryan Lochte will be long-forgotten in the mind of most local people and sports fans.

Will Phelps get more involved in local sports issues?

Will he immerse in the community and be more than a face at a local bar and on the sidelines of Baltimore Ravens games?

Will he develop a hobby or interest outside of the pool that doesn’t include pictures of him at a frat party?

What will traveling the world and “seeing things” do for his status as a strangely famous and wealthy 26-year old man with many, many more years left on the planet?

What will the future of Michael Phelps bring for him and for Baltimore?

Only time will tell.

Your feedback or thoughts are welcomed below…

I am blogging on behalf of the Visa Go World Olympic Campaign and receive compensation for my time, but
the thoughts, words, and promotions on this page are mine, not Visa’s.

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Is Michael Phelps a hero or a zero? Depends on who you ask…

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Is Michael Phelps a hero or a zero? Depends on who you ask…

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

The every-fourth-year hubbub about the Olympics and swimming and local connections is underway and once again this week Michael Phelps has entered the worldwide sports consciousness every night as the most decorated athlete in United States history.

So if you’re a provincial, “local” Baltimore sports fan you’re almost obligated to cheer for the kid from Towson wearing the red, white and blue on behalf of our country as well as our community.

After all of the tape delay fiascos from England this weekend – I wrote my two cents here — I started thinking about Michael Phelps as being the unique sports figure of our time in Baltimore. Oh, sure we have some hometown sports heroes like Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis, who will all have plenty of bronze likenesses and memories in our community and “time will not dim the glory of their deeds” but Phelps’ accomplishments trump all of them on his stage when you consider his competition around the planet and the scope and magnitude of the Olympics.

And unlike the Orioles, Colts or Ravens, most people have never been anywhere near a pool where Michael Phelps has swam a lap. The closest approximation to a “cheering crowd” for Phelps happened four years ago when the remnants of a Baltimore Ravens preseason game watched him swim for gold inside the stadium about 30 minutes after the football game ended.

You can see my view of it here:

So on Saturday afternoon before Phelps took his first turn in the pool vs. Ryan Lochte, I put up one simple, open-ended sentence for tens of thousands of our @WNST Twitter followers and our Facebook community. It was:

Michael Phelps is ___________________.

There were hundreds of comments across social media and by my count far more than 50% weren’t just negative they were downright personal and abusive in some cases. And this was on Facebook, where people sign their names and add their likeness to their criticism.

Perhaps it’s gold medal envy?

Maybe it was the DUI

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