To Maese et al.,
Subject: Release the hounds!
BEIJING -- Dude, seriously, being a member of the swim media lately must be what it feels like to be a pack of caged wolves. (Nice photo, though!) We stand behind ropes for hours at a time, snarling and fighting with one another, and then eventually someone brings over a swimmer to talk to us (at least some of us) and we react (again, at least some of us) like a zoo keeper has thrown a piece of bloody meat in our direction.
"You sir, you move," a foreign camera guy said to me today. "You are words man. You can go in back. I need pictures."
"Sorry, dude, not moving," I told him.
"You are real nice guy, yes?" he said, smug and condescending.
"I sure am. I'm the nicest guy. And after Michael comes through and talks, I'll move. If you wanted to stand here, you should have shown up earlier."
"You are real nice guy," he said again, right before storming off. "Thanks so much."
Anyway, Maese, eventually our red meat finally arrived and Mr. Phelps -- after posing shirtless for a few photos with Stephanie Rice, among other Speedo athletes -- came over to talk. I'm pretty sure he's getting sick of looking at my exhausted mug every day, but he's also created a beast than needs to be fed. I asked him briefly if he knew any more about what role he'll play in the handoff at the end of the week in London for the 2012 Olympics.
"I'm a part of the Visa handover party in London, and it's going to be cool to see where the Olympics are going to be in four years and sort of start getting your mind ready for it," Phelps said.
As for his comments to Bob Costas that he and Bob Bowman have plans to buy a pool and expand the facilities of North Baltimore Aquatic Club? It was clear Phelps might have let something slip he wasn't really supposed to.
"Um ... we're definitely going to start training back in Baltimore," he said, suddenly coy. "But I'm not really sure exactly. I never know what I'm really talking about, I just say things."
Phelps won't be back to Baltimore for, at the very least, a few weeks. You'll see him in New York and Los Angeles and Ann Arbor first. But he's coming. Don't worry folks, he's coming.
Photo: Rick Maese