It was a great night for the name Omaha.
At approximately 7:11 p.m. Monday, Omaha touched the wall, then touched them all.
Over at the human aquarium, the CenturyLink Center, Ryan Lochte finished the men's 400 medley race just ahead of his rival and card partner, Olympic legend Michael Phelps.
Within one minute, over at the ol' ball yard, South Carolina ace and College World Series legend Michael Roth threw the first pitch of what turned out to be the last game of the 2012 CWS.
What a moment in time. What a night in history. But thanks to Arizona, we'll just be doing it once this week. The Wildcats won the 2012 CWS championship with a 4-1 victory over two-time defending CWS king South Carolina. Lochte took down the king of the pool, Phelps, in a statement win.
The big winner was Omaha. Or, as the kids at the pool like to call it, Swimaha.
For a little more than an hour, NBC was live from Omaha at the same exact same time ESPN was live from Omaha. Side by side, Olympics and College World Series, on a sun-splashed summer day nobody here will forget.
The overlap didn't occur four years ago, when the CWS ended before the Swim Trials. It couldn't be avoided this time, even with the NCAA moving up a day. But that was a good thing.
There was tension. There was anxiety. There was pressure. And that was just the city's traffic control folks.
This big evening started with traffic, of course. Cars up and down, clogging the arteries of north downtown Omaha. But it was orderly traffic. It flowed naturally. And that said it all about the potential headaches of two events clashing like titans.
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It was natural. Like we do it every year. Make that every four years.
Of course, it helped that many of the swim fans were out-of-towners in hotels who could walk. A lot of the swim fans were already in the Aqua Zone, buying pink and blue goggles and rad London T-shirts at the Speedo shop, or trying their luck riding the mechanical bull, er, shark.
Meanwhile, the CWS crowd gets there early and often, doing the tailgate thing or the Zesto thing or the Baseball Village thing. I mean, you assume the tailgaters are seamheads, right? Nobody tailgates to watch the 100 butterfly, although think of the seafood spread.
If the ballpark was the Road to Omaha and the CenturyLink was the Road to London, then Lot B was a metaphorical Atlantic Ocean, separating two continents, two worlds.
The swim crowd had its own flavor. California cool. Kids and their parents with killer tans walking around in T-shirts that read, “Danville Swimming,” “Team Canyon swim” and “Cal Swimming.” Lot of fresh faces, bleached hair. Total energy. This was the orange juice crowd.
The baseball folks are the BBQ sauce crowd. The CWS is our backyard BBQ. It was not unlike the swim crowd, lot of kids and their families running around, most in baseball hats and shirts.
But there were clear differences in the two events, and crowds and anyone who had the events on two TV sets in their living room could see there were two Omahas, side by side, on Monday night.
There was a level of sophistication and energy at the CenturyLink that you didn't have at TD Ameritrade Park. For one thing, there weren't any yahoos jumping into the pool like the several morons who ran onto the field at the CWS, delaying an inning.
It's not that the swim fans don't know how to swim. It's just not what you do. Plus, they would have had to jump over the six-foot flames shooting up from the pool deck.
Maybe they should shoot the flames over at TD Ameritrade to keep the rowdies off the field. The bleacher crowd was up to their usual beach ball tricks. You'd think that you'd see that over at the pool.
There were rumors of new twists and gadgets at the Swim Trials, and Omaha didn't disappoint. The green waterfall was back, welcoming fans to Omaha and sending the winners to London. If only you could read a column on that waterfall.
The public-address announcer doubled as a cheerleader, prodding the crowd to cheer, for people to get on their feet and “make some noise, Omaha, let these swimmers hear you.”
Once again, the atmosphere was electric. And then some. While the crowd at the CWS sang along to “Sweet Caroline,” the swim fans were bouncing to Lady Gaga and “Welcome to the Jungle.”
If you couldn't feel the noise in the water, you could certainly feel the heat from the flames shooting up into the air right alongside the outside lanes.
“Nobody knew they were coming,” said Harold Cliff, the Omaha sports commission executive director. “We didn't even tell the people in the ninth row.”
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The rock-concert flames debuted during the first race, the men's 400 medley, and both rock stars approved.
“I could feel the flames,” Phelps said. “You could see the flames going out and hear the enthusiasm from the crowd. It gave me energy.”
Not enough to catch Lochte, who made a statement by winning their first duel of the week. When Lochte was awarded his medal, he rose up out of the floor, on a riser, to the podium. That was a very cool touch. Then Lochte walked around and slapped hands with the crowd. He was still talking about the fire.
“During the breaststroke I saw a bunch of flames and I said, “What is going on?' ” Lochte said.
What's going on might be a changing of the lifeguard in men's swimming. We'll see. There's a full week of Lochte-Phelps sequels ahead, and you know that NBC has to be thrilled with that. Swimaha fans, too.
As soon as Phelps announced that he was entering the 400, that race was bound to deliver a big moment. And that's the biggest difference between the orange juice and the BBQ sauce events.
In swimming, there are only a handful of events each night, all nicely tucked into an hour's time slot. Whenever a race starts, you might get that big moment. When the titans of Atlantis go at it in a race, you're all but guaranteed a big moment.
In college baseball, you might have to wait two, three hours for that big moment.
It finally came in the last two innings. Arizona, so strong at the plate the entire fortnight, had chased the prolific Roth in the seventh. Then the Wildcats got to South Carolina's other pitching hero, reliever Matt Price, for three runs in the eighth.
South Carolina loaded the bases in the ninth, but the Gamecocks were out of magic.
It was over three hours after the first pitch and about two hours after the last swim event. The swim traffic was long gone. It all worked out. In fact, it was so routine that it masked the absolute surreality of the night's events.
But we shouldn't be surprised. Omaha does big events and does them well. Put 11,207 and 23,872 in the same area, separated by a parking lot, and they figure out a way to have their slice of fun.
Meanwhile, the biggest smile of the night was on the face of Omaha Chamber of Commerce President Dave Brown. Across the country, channel surfers couldn't get Omaha off their TV sets. What's up with Omaha, anyway?
It's got one less event today, thanks to Arizona. After the game, a CWS official saw the Swim Trials pass around my neck and asked, “Who won?”
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