Top Five Sports Memories, Fourth Place: U.S. Olympic Swim Trials

Posted: August 1, 2011 in Sports
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As I set out to document my own personal experiences with sporting events I sort of meandered and dodged around a true ranking system in my initial writing.  After much thought and careful consideration, I’ve decided that these sports moments will, indeed, be in order of how much they meant to me.  In other words, disregard the first 200 words of my last post.

I also should have clarified in my earlier post that I will be limiting these memories to experiences that I witnessed as a fan and didn’t partake in as an athlete.

That being said, here’s fourth place in the Burnpoetry Sports Memory Hall of Fame:

U.S. Swim Trials: 2008

Let me preface this memory by stating that I’m an Olympics junkie.  I know that for some people the constant barrage of odd sporting events and massive marketing effort that are the Olympics just make them more of a nuisance and an impediment to a perfectly good summer of off-season football talk, but I view them as something more; something that strips away the politics and brings simmering nationalism to a full-on stars-and-stripes boil.

I’m that guy.  You know, the one who sits up at three in the morning shouting at the referees for the women’s fencing semi-final, screaming “Stab her.  Stab that dirty ____(insert Communist term here)___.  U.S.A. . .U.S.A. . .”  So it should come as no surprise that I also love the Olympic trials as well.  They’re the Star Wars: A New Hope to the Olympics’ Return of the Jedi.  They’re the Slim Shady LP to the Marshall Mathers LP.  You get the point. 

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Omaha would be hosting the 2008 U.S. Olympic Swimming trials.  Normally, swimming wasn’t even in my top five of sports, but every year when the Olympics roll around I would eagerly throw my undying support behind the red, white, and Speedo-ed.  I would immerse myself in the chlorinated world of Michael Phelps and Cullen Harper and marvel at the speed with which humans could rocket through the water.

My fiance got us tickets to the event and I could hardly contain my excitement.  We had three days worth of tickets, a cooler full of cheap beer and Diet Mountain Dew and hearts full of reckless spectator abandon.

The Trials didn’t disappoint.

During the lead up to the 2008 Olympic games Michael Phelps was the U.S.’s biggest star.  He was a man chasing history; chasing an impossible, Captain Blackbeard-like haul of gold.  

In 2008 Michael Phelps was after El Dorado, but first he had to land on South America.  The way to do that was for him to swim at the U.S. Trials.  A ton.  There were tons of subplots not involving the pre-bong-ripping phenom but his star was at its zenith during this period of time. 

The U.S. Swim trials were like nothing I’d ever seen.  They had pomp.  They had circumstance.  They had some type of lazer light show/waterfall that looked like something from the alien world on Avatar that was quite simply the coolest single piece of technology I’ve seen used at a sporting event ever.  I would spout out burst of water that would spell certain words in colored lights.  I kept grabbing my fiance’s arm and shouting, “Oh, wait. . .now check that out.”

The fans were packed in and raucous, the atmosphere was perfect — even getting free red white and blue shirts on the Fourth of July — and the athletic competition itself was brilliant. 

We saw something like 4-5 World Records and at least 7 American Records.  Phelps, Ryan Lochte (*Author’s note: if you didn’t already know his name, you will as soon as the Olympics start up again), and even an aging Gary Hall Jr. who came back out in his patented boxer robe, reading in garishly bejeweled letters “The Godfather of Swimming.”

With each swimmer’s entrance they would play thunderous music and the Star Trek worthy lazers.  It was more WWE than USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee) and it was exactly the kind of “badass factor” that I didn’t know a swimming meet could possess.

It was the importance of the even, coupled with a perfect atmosphere and phenomenal competition in each and every race, that made this event climb all the way to number four for me.  Not even the tweenage hill-billy sitting behind us, who was determined to shout a Deep-South-slurred “Gooo!” every time his favorite breast stroker’s head popped out of the pool or the countless dudes-wearing-less-than-old-pervs-in-a-sauna could ruin the mood.

The swim trials will be back in Omaha for 2012.  You bet your chlorinated, back-stroking ass I’ll be there as well.


  1. madhat says:

    I, too, am a fan of the Olympics. What a THRILL to be at the trials!

  2. Sue Tolles says:

    you forgot about the pie eating competition that followed the swim trials. Oh yeah, it isn’t about your skills. Too bad, that was the year you won.

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