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Michael Phelps vs Shark: Who ya got?

An epic publicity stunt pits the Olympic swimmer versus a Great White. No, really

Jason Gay | WSJ 

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps

I hate to sound like a disloyal human being, but in the upcoming race between and a Great White Shark, I am picking the
 
Sorry, my fellow humans. I have to go with my gut here.

 
You’ve probably seen or heard hype for this cuckoo summertime TV stunt: starting July 23, as part of its “Week” tradition, the Discovery channel will pit the all-time men’s swimmer versus the magnificent beast of the sea. It’s a bizarre gimmick that could only be cooked up in a room full of TV producers, or a sandbox full of juice-box-drunk 4-year-olds, which I guess is the same thing.
 
It’s so silly, but I kind of love it. Between Phelps vs. Shark, the inane Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, and the Home Run Derby being 600 times more exciting than baseball’s dreary All-Star Game, it’s shaping up to be the Summer of the Shameless Stunt.
 
And there’s nothing wrong with a little shamelessness in What’s to be so sacred about? sprinted against horses. Cyclists chased speeding trains. The Jets play the Patriots twice a year.
 
I’ll admit that on paper, Phelps vs. is a grotesque mismatch. The all-time gold medal leader has a stable case as our greatest waterborne human, but even at his peak, Phelps averaged only five or six miles per hour in the pool. Officials are letting him compete against the using a “monofin”—think state-of-the-art mermaid tail—but even Phelps acknowledges the monofin is only going to add a few miles per hour more.
 
A Great White, on the other hand, can easily hit 20 mph or more when it’s in predatorial mode.
 
Good grief. This thing is going to be a rout. Phelps is going to have to hope the has an off day. Maybe the falls down a staircase the night before. Maybe the stays out all night with Ryan Lochte.
 
We don’t know a lot about the parameters of this competition (which apparently—spoiler alert—has already been performed in South Africa). It isn’t going to be the two of them side-by-side in an Olympic-sized pool, which is a little disappointing. Phelps did not force the Great White to swim the individual medley, which would have been phenomenal.
 
We also don’t know much about the opponent. Is it a young, aggressive An older, more contemplative Has the put on a few pounds? Why do I know 50 bazillion things about Lonzo Ball, who hasn’t played a single NBA game, and absolutely nothing about the Great White that is going to swim against?
 
What is the shark’s name? Jerry? Eloise? Sally? Rufus? Mindy? Steve?
 
Phelps recently gave an interview to Time magazine in which he talked about the competition—and hinted it might be narrower than expected.
 
“[The monofin] helped make the race a bit closer,” he said. “When the Great White bursts at the surface, that’s their mechanism for obviously attacking and getting food, so that’s not a normal speed that they swim at. [The scientists] were calculating the speed they could potentially swim in a straight line.”
 
OK. So he’s throwing out a little intrigue there: the isn’t going to be giving the Full
 
Still, I am going with the Great White.
 
I’m not the only one who’s unsold on Phelps’s chances. You can actually bet Phelps against the on the online bookmaker Bovada. A $1,000 bet on the will net $100 in a victory. A hundred on Phelps will get you $550 if Phelps wins. That’s only mildly worse odds than Conor McGregor’s!
 
Lochte—Phelps’ longtime teammate and the celebrated Rio de Janeiro service station Yelp reviewer—does not feel his colleague has the goods.
 
“Hell no,” Lochte told TMZ when asked if Phelps would beat the
 
Of course, we’re not hearing what they’re talking about on the side. Are they nervous? This is Michael Phelps, after all. Or are the sharks offended? What are they saying on TMZ? Or on Radio?
 
Let’s go to Bam Bam, who’s calling from off the coast of Cape Cod. Bam Bam, you’re on the air.
 
Yeah, I just want to say I think this whole Phelps vs. competition is a disgrace to our entire species. Ooo! I just saw a paddleboarder. I’ll hang up and listen.
 
One merciful element to this event is that it appears to be pure pleasure for Phelps, who is rich and a legend and isn’t depressingly coming out of retirement to race a because he lost money buying crystal skulls or on a restaurant deal gone bad. The dude just loves sharks. He told Time the chance to do Week represented “a dream come true.”
 
“The biggest thing is to get the message across that they don’t want to eat us,” Phelps said. “They’re out here surviving just like we are on land.”
 
Isn’t that the truth? Sounds good. I’m in.
 
And if Phelps can’t pull it off, let’s send Katie Ledecky.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

First Published: Tue, July 18 2017. 18:04 IST
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