Facing off against the NFC champion Carolina Panthers in Thursday night’s preseason opener, the Ravens knew their fans would want to celebrate hometown hero Michael Phelps in his 200-meter individual medley, and they were ready for it.
The team gave fans signs that read “Ravens Flock For Phelps” and promoted the race at M&T Bank Stadium.
In the fourth quarter, both teams stopped what they were doing and (on delay) the stadium watched Phelps secure his 22nd Olympic gold medal.
After the memorable victory, the fans — in Baltimore fashion — quickly broke out into the “Seven Nation Army” chant.
After the game, both teams exchanged Phelps-inspired tweets in the name of sportsmanship.
Players from both teams reacted to Phelps’s accomplishment.
“You won’t see too many athletes who would stop playing their game to watch another athlete compete,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said after the game. “That just shows how highly everyone thinks of Michael Phelps. It is unbelievable for him to be such a phenomenon for so long. It was really cool to watch his race tonight. I have so much respect for him.”
“How sick is that?” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. “In 10, 15, 20 years from now when I’m sitting with my kids, I’ll be able to say that I’m sitting in the Ravens stadium in a preseason game and I’m watching one of the best swimmers ever win gold for the U.S. As you get older, you cherish those kinds of moments.”
“I got chills from watching him,” Baltimore running back Buck Allen said.
In an interview with NBC following his 100-meter butterfly semifinal, Phelps said he was texting with a friend to get score updates from the Ravens game. “I look forward to getting back home to a Ravens game very soon,” Phelps said.
The Ravens ended up beating the Panthers, 22-19, on the same night Phelps won his 22nd Olympic gold medal. That’s sports serendipity at its finest, hon.