Matt Grevers and Annie Chandler at the Missouri Grand Prix last month
A few weeks ago on a cold February evening on a pool deck smack dab in the middle of Missouri a young man... a swimmer, proposed to his girlfriend... also a swimmer. Quickly, the swim sites went bananas but within 24 hours the video was being shown on mainstream news outlets, too: Yahoo, MSNBC, CNN all had links to the video. Almost 3 weeks and more than 2.6 million hits on You Tube later I watched it again last night.
2.6 million hits. That's incredible. Now, I know 92% of the people who clicked on the link and watched the video had absolutely no idea who Matt Grevers and Annie Chandler were. It didn't matter. Love is universal and only the most cynical and emotionally-damaged wouldn't be touched by Matt's public declaration of his love and Annie's reaction. It's like visual Prozac, you can actually feel your serotonin levels rise as you watch it.
For those of us who follow swimming it was exciting for many reasons. Many of us know Matt and/or Annie or have met them or maybe not. It's just a tight-knit community. If we don't know them we feel like we do. I have met Matt and he's as kind as he is tall. Watching it it was so familiar. The announcer, we all know him, what's-his-name.....the coach's whistles and echoes, the din of hundreds of swimmers on deck. It was almost like watching a family video and 2.6 million people were watching it, too.
Comments ranged from the idiotic, "why didn't she have her hair combed and some makeup on?" to "I'd say yes too with a back like that." Fellow swimmers chimed in, "I swam with Annie as an age grouper back in the 90's and she stepped on my towel." Most comments were just from regular people. People who had no idea who Matt and Annie were but were touched anyways. "Good luck to them, seem like nice kids" and "we need more of this kind of thing."
I think that's what struck me. How taken people were by this by this simple yet really sweet gesture that happens every day. In between the school-shootings, politicians hurling insults, natural disasters and woeful economic news people just wanted to see something genuine, pure and lovely. What also struck me was how we, in the swim community, can be immensely proud of our athletes. Matt chose to do something very personal and significant on a pool deck very similar to the one where he met and fell in love with his future wife, I'm sure. He chose to do it in front of his friends, teammates, coaches, other swimmers and swim fans.
It was a privilege to be let in on it and it seems a lot of people felt the same way.
Link to the video is here on YouTube. Copyright USA Swimming, y'all.