The Year in Sports
At the end of the calendar year, it’s customary on programs like this to look back at events from the year gone by. A number of fascinating things took place in 2014 around Baltimore and Maryland in a sporting context.
The Orioles took the area by storm by winning their division and getting closer to a World Series title than they had been in 30 years. The University of Maryland completed the move from the ACC to the Big Ten, while the UMBC men’s soccer team made a remarkable run to the national semifinals, two games away from the first championship in school history.
However, one of the most promising developments in this area may not take root for another two years. The United States Olympic Committee decided earlier this month that it will make a bid to host the 2024 Summer Games and will choose the host city from a group of four, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, early in 2015. If Washington is selected as the U.S. representative, you can be certain that existing venues from around the state and the city will be used.
The host city won’t be chosen for two more years, but, in the interim, the USOC and the Washington organizing group have a decision to make. It’s customary for a nation or a city to attempt to employ any resources it has to try to land the games, up to and including a successful Olympic athlete. No Olympian has been more successful than Michael Phelps, who has won 22 medals during his illustrious career in the pool.
It would be a natural for the Washington and national groups to align themselves with Phelps. Except that Phelps and his two brushes with the law are radioactive, or should be, as an endorser.
Phelps, as you may recall, was given a suspended sentence earlier this month after he pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence. Phelps was arrested in September after an SUV that he reportedly was driving was clocked doing 84 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone in one of the enclosed areas of the Fort McHenry tunnel.
Phelps later submitted to a Breathalyzer test, where prosecutors said his blood alcohol level was a .14, nearly twice the state legal limit of .08. Phelps’ attorney said the Towson native has undergone one treatment program in Arizona and is involved in another program locally. We certainly wish him all the best in those programs. But this event, combined with an incident 10 years ago, where he pled guilty to driving while impaired, should disqualify Michael Phelps representing the area in an Olympic bid.
The idea of modern athlete as role model may be antiquated. Locally, we’ve seen the images of Ray Rice, Chris Davis and HalotiN’gata badly tarnished this year for one reason or another, so Phelps is not alone in that regard. But Phelps is a repeat offender and his actions could have cost lives. That hardly seems the profile of someone with whom you’d want to go forward.