Today we interrupt our usual discussion of the perilous world of American politics to discuss the only slightly less perilous world of man-on-shark open water racing.
I am, of course, referring to the Discovery Channel’s much touted Shark Week 2017 kick off, wherein swimmer Michael Phelps raced a great white shark. Only he didn't race the shark head to head and now the internet is mad.
— Michael Pezzetta (@mpezzetta13) July 24, 2017
I watched the show last night with my 9-year-old son and we had a really good time. We learned lots of cool things about how fast different varieties of sharks can swim. We found out that shark speed is hard to track because they don’t swim in straight lines. We learned about ways different shark species have evolved to be more efficient in the water. And we watched Michael Phelps — who seemed to be delighted to participate in the project — learn all these things along with us. My son commented repeatedly that Phelps seemed like a really nice guy.
The race itself was anti-climactic because it wasn’t a race. It was basically two heats of a race. First, scientists convinced a wild great white to chase a hunk of fake seal meat for 100 meters so they could time it. Then Phelps donned a specially designed shark suit and swam the exact same route.
The shark was two seconds faster than Phelps.
Actually, let me rephrase that: HOLY SHIT, THERE’S A DUDE WHO CAN SWIM ALMOST AS FAST AS A SHARK. THAT’S FREAKING AMAZING!
The lack of actual racing was a letdown to many. Some people are commenting that back in the day, Jesse Owens, the legendary sprinter, actually raced a horse. But I would remind everyone that horses were domesticated thousands of years ago and have no history of eating people.
Sharks have been wild and savage since the days of the dinosaurs, spending millions of years evolving to become a perfect water-borne predator. Humans have…not. We haven’t even existed in our current form as long as sharks. So the fact that we have one guy who can get even close to swimming as fast as a shark is truly incredible.
In all, my review of the Phelps v Shark showdown: interesting, if over-hyped, effort by Discovery.