Thousands of Baltimore Ravens fans got in line early to seek a good vantage point to watch Baltimore native Michael Phelps chase his record-setting eighth Olympic gold medal on the stadium’s big screen Saturday night.
The U.S. 400-meter medley relay team, featuring Phelps, was displayed on both screens at M&T Bank Stadium after the Ravens faced the Minnesota Vikings in a preseason game.
Forty-five minutes before Phelps jumped in the pool in Beijing in search of his 14th career gold medal, Tony Beard, 45, and Ann Williams, 47, both of Owings Mills, were eager to watch the event.
“I think he’s going to be a legend forever,” Williams said of Phelps, adding that the swimmer’s Olympic performance is “definitely going to be remembered.”
Minutes before the race, fans in the lower seating bowl started chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A! Let’s go Phelps! U-S-A! U-S-A!” Some held posters that read “Ravens for Phelps.”
More than 10,000 of the 70,585 fans stayed to watch Phelps swim — and win.
Minutes after Phelps captured his record-setting gold medal, Jim Dickey, 38, of Whiteford, declared the hometown hero to be “just phenomenal. It’s just something you can’t believe.”
Dickey pointed out, with pride, that Phelps and fellow Maryland native Katie Hoff won as many medals as some countries.
Kevin and Julie Scally of Towson also waited in line to get a good seat, clutching an 2008 Olympics flag.
“Last night solidified his legend,” Kevin Scally said of Phelps’ narrow victory in the 100 meter butterfly Friday night. “We had trouble sleeping last night.”
Scally probably won’t have trouble sleeping in Sunday morning — especially if he stayed up late Saturday celebrating the addition of Phelps to a list of Baltimore heroes that includes Cal Ripken and Johnny Unitas.
Scally said he played sports against Ripken and went to church with Unitas while growing up in Baltimore. The Scallys live across the street from one of Phelps’ coaches, Ian Brooks.
“Michael Phelps just kind of fits in with a big small town. And that’s Baltimore all the way,” Kevin Scally said. “He’s part of us, he really is. He just fits in as a character in Baltimore.”