Galeophobia, or the fear of sharks, may be pretty widespread, but it doesn’t stop Shark Week from being one of the most highly-anticipated summer programs. While fans occasionally get annoyed by repeat programs year after year, they were promised something very special for 2017: the showdown of the decade. A head-to-head race between Michael Phelps and a great white shark.
“Soooo psyched!” Wrote Jorge Martinez on the Discovery Channel’s Facebook page. When we got in contact with him, he said he’d placed a fifty dollar bet on the great white.
“Phelps all the way!” Facebook user Will Vincent wrote. “Best swimmer in the world! Jaws is TOAST!” He said he was all-in on the 23-time Olympic gold medalist.
“Yes. This is happening.” The Discovery Channel stated in a video highlighting the main event.
But it was not, in fact, happening.
Much to the dismay of shark and Phelps fans alike, the two would not be racing in the most epic face-off of our time. Instead, Phelps challenged a moderately-convincing CGI shark in a simulated race. Following a pointless hour-long lead-in, Phelps jumped off the back of a boat and swam through the cool, murky ocean waters for no more than a minute and fifteen seconds, ultimately losing to the great white not-shark.
Social media’s reaction was instant, brutal, and unforgiving.
“I mean, it can’t be that hard to make a shark race in a straight line, right?” Shark Week super-fan Jillian Lee wrote on the Discovery Channel’s post-race update. “Just dangle some meat in front of it or something. I’m sure Michael Phelps wouldn’t have been in any danger. He’s MICHAEL PHELPS.”
“I can’t believe a land animal can’t beat a creature that spends its entire life in the water!” Wrote Vince Denning. “Waste of time, Discovery Channel!”
Social media analyst Rick Hamburg has dubbed the Phelps-Great White incident the “Great Shark Week Freak-Out.”
“I’m not sure why so many people thought Michael Phelps would be facing an actual great white shark, but they did,” Hamburg said. “I mean, logically, it makes no sense. Imagine the PR nightmare if either of them had been injured. You couldn’t just contain a great white like that and not expect it to attack. It would also go against massive amounts of animal rights laws, and likely lead to people boycotting Shark Week in the future.”
Hamburg expects the buzz to die down after a week or so, at least until next year.
“The Discovery Channel is notorious for airing Shark Week footage from previous years. We’ll be seeing ‘Phelps Vs. Great White’ again. Make no mistake.”
We tried to reach out to an actual great white shark for comment, but it simply thrashed around in the water and swam off to hunt a school of manta rays.
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