Saturday, July 2, 2011

Michael Felts

I had been pestering my boss for a few days about getting a company shirt to wear on-camera. As illogical as it seemed to me, it seemed impossibly difficult to squeeze one out of the promotions department. Wearing the logo on-air seemed like great advertising and a brilliant way to identify the station to morning channel-surfers.

After a few days of hounding, I was finally handed a company shirt to wear on-air! Woo-hoo! The first day I wore it on the morning show, I had organized a visit to the Dollard pool to interview Michael Phelps. It was May 10, 2005.

I had three two-minute segments to do during the show, but, much earlier, I would always do a “teaser” to let viewers know where I was and what they would see over the course of the morning. It would normally last about 30-40 seconds.

As I set up for the "teaser", Phelps had already arrived and was off-camera, chatting graciously with coaches and eager young swimmers. As I went on the air, live, explaining where we were, Michael Phelps walked over, pulled the top off a black Sharpie permanent marker and autographed the brand new shirt I was wearing. After managing to get a couple of sentences out, I stood there dumbfounded, trying to smile, while, inside, I moaned, “Nooooooooooo!”

The shirt I had nagged the station to give me was no longer wearable!

My cameraman, Gilbert, who often generated mischief, had told Michael to sign my shirt as soon as I started speaking in front of the camera!

Dealing with the fresh felt scrawl that morning was tough, but by the time we left and after speaking with Michael and watching him with the kids and in the pool, I had come to accept and value the signature.

Michael Phelps is in Montreal today for the “Canada Cup-Coupe Quebec” swim meet happening at the Olympic Park athletic centre. His visit made me think of that morning in May.

Of course, along with the rest of the world, I went on to watch, awestruck, as he won eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing in 2008, for a total of 16 in his amazing, ongoing career. He is truly an athlete of legendary stature, winning the World Swimmer of the Year award six times.

Lucky me, I now have a shirt/museum piece signed by Michael Phelps and it’s probably worth significant money now!

Merci encore, Gilbert!

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