Lenny Megliola: It’s Phelps’ world, we’re just dog-padding in it

Lenny Megliola

A man carrying a MICHAEL PHELPS FOR RAVENS QUARTERBACK sign made his way through the stands of Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium Saturday night.

The Ravens were playing the Vikings in one of those brutally boring NFL preseason games. None of the Ravens quarterbacks --- Troy Smith, Joe Flacco and Kyle Boller --- excited the home town fans.

Michael Phelps did.

“Oh my god, yeah,” said Michael Adler, a child psychologist and Baltimore native who was at the game. “It’s incredible.”

Adler left at halftime. He wanted to watch Phelps go for his unprecedented eighth gold medal in swimming at the Beijing Olympics. Even though the Ravens fans were invited to stay after the game to watch Phelps compete on the stadium screen, many of them, like Adler, had left by halftime, picking another place to watch the hometown hero.

Watching the end of the game at home, Adler said “most of the fans had left by the fourth quarter.”

Fans who stayed were urged to congregate in section 140 so it would like a bigger crowd was watching Phelps when the live TV shot was beamed throughout the world.

Phelpsmania will soon sweep the entire US of A. Here’s how big he already is. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, who probably don’t know squat about swimming, were at the aquatic venue for the historic moment. Phelps was the only reason they were there.

That’s right, Michael, LeBron and Kobe wanted to see YOU. They are very, very rich guys, as you know, being the sports fan you are. They got all of life’s toys that money can buy. But you’ve got something they don’t have and can’t buy. Gold. Lots of gold.

Gold today, Mr. Green tomorrow. Phelps is about to cash in big-time, monetarily.

”He grew up in a modest group of row houses,” says Adler.

When the dough comes rolling in, Phelps can be Tiger Woods’ neighbor. Or maybe he’ll just stay in his home town.

“He’s a big Ravens fan,” said Adler. “A real Baltimore kind of kid. The Ravens signed a shirt for him and flew it to Beijing so he’d get it before (Saturday’s competition).”

Fame Phelps has. Leno and Letterman will be fighting to see who gets him first. Oprah will call. Kimmel and Conan and Tavis Smiley, too. Barbara Walters will try to make him cry. Books about Phelps’ remarkable journey will be written. Expect a movie, too.

Phelps, if lives to be 95 (he’ll probably be winning senior meets), will never, ever have to pay for a meal. Baltimore has its share of sports legends. Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken Jr., Johnny Unitas, Frank and Brooks Robinson, Gino Marchetti and Jim Palmer come to mind.

Who knew a swimmer would join them on the pedestal? Maybe they’ll name the city’s famed Inner Harbor for Phelps.

Phelps will be invited to throw out the first pitch at every big-league ballpark. OK, the Orioles come first. But you must stop by Fenway Park, Michael. It’s a pretty funky place.

The Madison Avenue suits will be all over Phelps for endorsements. Anything to do with water will be on their list. “HI, I’M MICHAEL PHELPS. YOU KNOW, I LOVE BEING IN THE WATER. AS FOR DRINKING IT, NOTHING BEATS AQUAFINA!” There’s got to be a Wet ‘N Wild commercial with Phelps in it.

You saw a lot of Phelps coming out of the pool this past week. You’re going to see a lot more of this in commercials. He can do as many or as few as he wants.

He could be hawking so many products on TV you might think he’s moved in with you.

It’s not about the money, said Phelps, probably the first time we’ve heard that from a SWIMMER! No, he’s motivated by the challenge. Could he really win eight medals in one Olympics? Things could go wrong, you know.

Forget it. Phelps just Spitz in the eye of any doubters.

It’s Michael Phelps’ world. We’re just dog-padding in it.

Lenny Megliola is a Daily News columnist. His e-mail is lennymegs@aol.com.