Monday, August 18, 2008

The Highlight of My Weekend: Michael Phelps

Deep in the middle of wedding season, it can be easy to compare and contrast the ceremonies you attend in a given year. Church or no church? Indoor or Outdoor? How large was the party? How many were invited? Most importantly, was there an open bar?

No two weddings are alike, and that's part of what makes them so fun. Different people, different atmosphere, and if you're lucky, a different girl at the end of the night. But at the two weddings I attended this weekend, there was one glaring similarity: Michael Phelps.

Friday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Oshkosh was where I was when Phelps was going for number seven. My friends and I had decided that no matter what point we were at in the reception, even if it was time for the Cha Cha Slide, we would be ditching out to the hotel bar to watch Phelps race.

We weren't alone. About 30 others from the wedding made the trip over, and we all had our eyes glued to the tv. The cheer was the loudest I've ever heard for a swimming race, and to be honest, I don't remember too many moments I've been around a louder cheer. It was as if the Packers had just taken the lead in the NFC Championship Game all over again. The race couldn't have been closer, and it was debated throughout much of the night. (It's also probably appropriate here to once again thank the man who bought the entire bar shots of Goldschl├Ąger after the victory).

Thinking that my experience was rare, I told some of the other attendees on the next wedding I was at about what had happened. Turns out, a group of people had gone down to Bloomington, Indiana the night before and were out partying at one of the local establishments. There too, they said, the entire bar focused on the Phelps race, and let out a cheer similar in decible and excitement to the one we let out in Oshkosh. It was then I realized that this had to be a scene occuring all over America. Fairweather swim fans gathering together to watch Olympic history.

On Saturday night, Phelps had one more race to go to complete his quest for eight gold medals in a single Olympics. Again, a group of people decided to find a television during the game, this time it happened to be in the basement at Alumni Hall on the University of Indiana campus. There had to be at least 50 people down there, probably more, gathered to watch the 4x100 relays.

The best part of this race? Even the wedding's groom was glued in front of the TV.

Everytime NBC showed the graphic of who touched first, the place would either cheer in exuberance or groan with dismay. By the time Phelps was swimming, we were all on our feet, and as Jason Lezak brought it home, we found ourselves in someone else's arms, hugging out the victory.

It was sort of a surreal moment, to be gathered with that many friends and strangers, at two different weddings, in two different cities, on two different nights. All of us there for the support of the bride and groom, but bonded by our support of America.

Final count for the weekend? Girls brought up to hotel room: 0. Phelps Gold Medals: 2.

I'm fine with that.

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