Tripple Overtime: That time I sort of ate sushi with Michael Phelps

Date Published: 
August 19, 2016

For as much time as he spends in the water, it seems somewhat strange that Michael Phelps does not like fish.


I mean, take Aquaman, for example. I very much doubt that Jason Mamoa is 20,000 or so leagues under and elbows up on a porterhouse, cranking the “Yellow Submarine” every time his iPhone 6+, with inherently necessary Lifeproof® housing, flashes the bat symbol.

No. Since he’s Aquaman, he obviously ignores calls from Ben Affleck while he eats fish, or some other aqua-related menu item for supper.

He does also use fish as a weapon somehow, I guess, which is sort of confusing and, for all intents and purposes, you would think would cause certain confusions as far as maintaining both world peace and a Michelle Obama-approved balanced diet, but that’s not really my point.

My point is this: Michael Phelps is probably the closest thing the world has to a super-human.

Not only is the guy the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, taking a bite out of 23 gold medals and pretty much any other accolade you could possibly collect while not wearing pants, but he’s built like a super human, too.

Rumor has it that, to maintain his mutant physique, he has to take in more than 12,000 calories per day.

For reference, that’s roughly 21 Big Macs from McDonald’s. Over five large pizzas from Little Caesar’s. About 46 glazed donuts from Dunkin Donuts. And exactly 25 of those Meatball Marinaras from Subway he’s always going on about.

What Phelps is not always going on about, however, is Subway’s signature fish sandwich special, which by the grace of God does not exist, but which also brings me to the point that I’m really trying to get to, which is this: Michael Phelps may or may not eat fish.

On its own legs, the Subway fish sandwich theory alone probably doesn’t stand, but I do have further proof to this most-likely-misguided and most-definitely-irrelevant claim, which, to be honest, I only bring up for purposes of both name-dropping and unwarranted attention by association only (similar to how Hillary Clinton or Scottie Pippen are famous), and that proof is this: One time I sort of ate sushi with Michael Phelps.

The year is unknown, although I do recall being either a junior or a senior in high school and Phelps not being so much at Wheaties-box fame quite yet, but everyone around town still knowing who he was and that he was “kind of a big deal” (which, by the way, we were all quoting a lot at the time because “Anchorman” had just come out on Digital Video Disc in non-Blu-ray format) etc., etc.

So, but anyway, we all sit down to dinner at a place called San Sushi back in Towson, and are trying to figure out not only just exactly what it is that “sashimi” means, but also who out of the group looks the oldest, so that we might be able to score some sake upon trying to order; and in walks the 6-foot-4 Phelps, with a girl we knew on his arm and rocking a light navy-blue or possibly cobalt hoodie, Belichick-style (although it did have sleeves).

And he sits down with us at the empty seat we had left open for them, without proper introduction or even any introduction at all — standard colloquial introductions being a thing that teenagers are sometimes prone to foregoing in favor of instead just jumping into random conversations about the latest Will Ferrell movie now available for rent at Blockbuster on Digital Video Disc in non-Blu-ray format.

But here’s the strange thing. Phelps didn’t eat. He didn’t even order. Or talk. Barely even to Carie, who brought him, and even then just short, barely audible whispers that, at the most, could have only been “yes” or “no” answers.

He didn’t even laugh at the thousands of times we made the “milk was a bad choice” joke (we couldn’t get the sake) while chopsticking sashimi, still unsure of what it was.

The whole night, all Michael Phelps did was text on his phone with his hood up, not saying a word.

I’m not sure what it was, whether it was some deep-seated insecurity or perhaps the opposite feeling, of some self-assuring superiority. Maybe I’m not as likable as I think I am. Maybe he was offended that we didn’t all remove our shoes prior to entering the restaurant, in the customary Japanese way.

Whatever it was, I’m still complaining about it, like, a decade or so later, so obviously it kind of rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t really follow his swimming career much after that.

But, even so, whether the slight was intentional, and whether he eats fish or no, my point is this: that after like 10-plus years or so of flipping the channels during the swimming highlights on “Sportscenter” and avoiding the cereal aisle, and boycotting “eating fresh,” I’m finally ready to forgive Michael Phelps for that one time he was kind of jerk at San Sushi. After all, it’s probably not so easy, being super-human.