You can take the boy out of Baltimore, but you can't stop him from appreciating a good "O" during the National Anthem.
Even while receiving his 20th gold medal, which is mind blowing in itself, Phelps remembered where he came from—with a little help from the audience. While on the podium after a stellar win in the 200-meter butterfly, Phelps' teary, sentimental face turned into a bold laugh during a very specific part of the National Anthem.
Most viewers were speculating about what could have been so funny at that moment. But we locals know what comes right after "and our flag was still there." Turns out Phelps' friends from Baltimore, including longtime classmate and friend Brian Shea, were the guilty culprits that shouted "O" during the anthem and made Phelps crack up.
"I told Michael I'd give him at least one 'O' just like I did in London," Shea told Baltimore from Brazil. "I was close enough that I knew he would hear me without cameras picking it up. I honestly didn't think I'd get him cracking up, but I knew he'd have fun with it. It's something all of us in Baltimore know well and it was my way of saying that everyone back home is behind you."
After the medal ceremony, Phelps confirmed to NBC that his "boys in Baltimore" were, indeed, the catalyst for his laughter on the podium.
"Back in Maryland, we all say 'O' for the Orioles," Phelps explained to NBC. "All of the sudden, I hear them roar 'O' and I knew exactly where it came from and I just lost it."
As for the Orioles, a spokesperson for the club said that the organization was "pleasantly surprised to see this longstanding, grassroots tradition displayed on a global stage, and we congratulate Michael and all of our Team USA athletes on making it to and achieving tremendous success at the Olympics."
Though Phelps has sold his house in Canton and did a bulk of his training for this Olympic games in Arizona, last night's moment was proof that Baltimore is still near and dear to his heart.
"Michael is proud of where he comes from just like all of us," Shea said. "The 'O' is our city's big mysterious shout out. We're an exclusive club and I know Michaels is proud to be a part of it. Go O's!"
Phelps won yet another gold medal (21!) when he anchored the men's 4x200-meter freestyle last night. He still has two more events—the 200-meter IM and 100-meter butterfly—and likely many more magical moments to go.