For now, Michael Phelps is doing what any 27-year-old who has won more medals than any Olympian ever – and earned millions along the way – would probably do.
Golf. (Of course, his golf game is the subject of a reality television show.)
Date a model. (You’ve read all about Megan Rossee by now.)
And, because he’s from Baltimore, eat crabs.
“Pretty much I’m just living the retirement life,” Phelps said Monday after a ceremony/pep rally at Under Armour headquarters. “Waking up whenever I want to. Going to bed whenever I want to. It’s a pretty laidback life so far.”
Phelps’s appearance in the parking lot of the Cheer Building at Under Armour’s Tide Point campus preceded his first major public appearance in Baltimore, in which he and fellow Olympians and Paralympians were recognized by Gov. Martin O’Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, among others. He was scheduled to follow that appearance with a spot as the Ravens’ honorary captain for their season-opening Monday night game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Having worked out with the Ravens in late August, he offered the following scouting report along with a prediction for a 24-10 win against the Bengals:
“They look good, they look excited, they look fast,” he said. “Seems like we have a lot of good weapons for our receiving corps, and Ray [Lewis] obviously looks good and the defense looks strong.”
But Phelps is like everybody else who looks at Lewis’ slimmer body – he’s back below 240 pounds for the first time since college – and wonders what that might actually mean for Lewis' ability to handle the grind of playing every down of an NFL game.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what he does,” he said. “I know he’s very excited and he’s very focused on what he wants to do this season and he’s going to go out there and try to do it.”
Phelps reflected on his own doubters in a question and answer session conducted by Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank. When Phelps failed to swim at his usual level during pre-Olympic competition, commentators were quick to say that rival Ryan Lochte had passed him by. And then Phelps finished fourth in the 400 IM – four seconds behind winner Lochte -- on the first night of competition.
“The only thing I could do was put it behind me and move to the other races,” he said. “I remember walking behind the diving towers, and I just let out a little scream – I won’t say what I said – but I was a little frustrated. I remember laying down and going to bed and thinking I have so many other opportunities. I still can do what I want to do. So I put it behind me, threw it over my shoulder and moved on.”
Plank praised Phelps -- and vice versa -- during the rally, which about 600 Under Armour workers attended. The men wore yellow shirts, and the women wore purple ones. All of the shirts said, "The Baltimore Bullet," in reference to a Phelps nickname that has kicked around for years. Phelps eventually put on a new pair of Under Armour sneakers and pressed them into some freshly prepared cement; his shoeprints will be the first installed on a walkway meant to honor top athletes.
"You're a true American star," Plank said.
Much of the conversation was loose, though. Plank posited that Phelps -- who, of course, has an endorsement deal with the company -- had struggled early because he was forced to wear Nike’s Team USA Gear. When Phelps suggested chucking his remaining Nike attire in the water, Plank said: “I don’t want you stinking up the harbor.”
Plank eventually played a sort of word-association game with Phelps, who went on to reveal that Go Getta by Young Jeezy was the song he used most during his career to get pumped up, his dog Herman cannot doggie paddle (the bulldog’s legs are too short) and he prefers the Ravens to the Orioles (but likes both.) Pressed to discuss the scene in the Olympic Village – where 150,000 condoms were given out this year – Phelps demurred and said “It’s like a mini-city.” (Yes, Rosse was in attendance.)
Phelps also said his family was “the world;” his sisters and mother were there, as well as nieces and nephews.
Eventually, he said, he’ll get back to business. But even Phelp’s business is tied to his leisurely pursuits these days. He traveled to TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas for his first shooting of “The Haney Project,” a four-hour lesson on the range that saw him swing “about 1,000 times.” He has calluses on his hands to prove it (and the pictures that surfaced from his "retirement party" in Vegas prove he also enjoyed himself a bit.)
Until then, Phelps will enjoy the city he said would always be his home, where he feels most himself. His most enjoyable Baltimore moment since returning was a trip to Bo Brooks in Canton, where he now lives.
“It was awesome to go get crabs,” he said. “We sat right there on the water, got some good-sized crabs and just sorta sat there, a bunch of good friends, enjoying it.”
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