It's hard to really understand Baltimore unless you're from Baltimore. Sitting in the shadows of DC and probably the least known city of the I-95 corridor Megalopolis -- DC to Boston -- we've always had a bit of an inferiority complex to DC.
Baltimoreans are brought up to hate DC sports teams. Before the Washington Wizards were the Washington Bullets, they were the Baltimore Bullets until the evil Abe Pollin relocated the team to the rich DC market. When the Colts fled Baltimore (thanks to the devil himself, Robert Irsay), we wanted nothing to do with the Redskins. We'd cheer for whoever was playing the Colts first, then whoever was playing the 'Skins. It's not personal, really, it's just in our blood.
When Edward Bennett Williams, a Washington lawyer, bought the Orioles in the late 70's, we feared the worst -- a move to the nations capital.
Our sports heroes have been good guys. Johnny Unitas, a Pittsburgh transplant who adopted Baltimore and became a favorite son. Brooks Robinson, a Little Rock native and my sports hero growing up, owned the town and still commands serious bucks at autograph sessions here. Cal Ripken, from just a few miles up I-95 calls the Baltimore area home. The people of Baltimore and the country loved them and we call them ours. But it's been a little dry in the six or so years since Cal hung up his cleats.
Now there's 23-year old Michael Phelps. When word came out just a few weeks before the Olympics that Michael had bought a place and would return to Baltimore after the Olympics, the city cheered. When Michael rang up one gold after another, we cheered louder. When Michael talked about life after the Olympics, he starts by talking about his return to Baltimore. (I'm sure I wasn't alone looking for the slightest hint of an "O" from his lips during one of the eight Star Spangled Banner played in his honor, just like you'd see at any Orioles home game.)
He talked about how he missed the city after his years in Michigan, so what's he gonna do? He's gonna buy that North Baltimore Aquatic Club with all of his new gold-medal-laden dough and make his coach the president. Now we've got a good four years to cheer for him until London in 2012, but from the sounds of it, he'll be around a lot longer. I'm pretty sure he won't have to buy a meal in this town for at least 20 or 30 years.
With the Olympics now finally over, we're looking forward to welcoming Michael back home. Local boy done good. Welcome home, Michael, the town is yours!