Phelps makes splash in make-believe race

by Gary Shelton on July 24, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Swimming

Monday, 1 a.m.

And in the end, Michael Phelps raced against, well, Jabberjaw.

You remember Jabberjaw, right? He was the old Saturday morning cartoon,  an oafish shark  you could laugh at? Well, Jabberjaw uncovered newfound respect Sunday night when he raced against Phelps, the winner of 28 Olympic gold medals in a counterfeit TV program. He beat Phelps in the make-believe competition by two whole seconds.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to see a Great White have Phelps over for dinner. I don't want him to end up as fish food like Robert Shaw in Jaws. No one wants him to be America's chum. I certainly don't.

But after all the talk about cages and safety and his conversations about diving with the sharks, we expected a real -- although controlled -- race. Maybe the shark would swim in a tube, like at Sea World. Maybe he would be motivated by food. Maybe Phelps would be in a portable cage.

Instead, Phelps swam against the superimposed image of a shark which, obviously, could swim whatever time the computer geeks programmed it to swim.

Given the realism of this race, Phelps might as well have raced a barracuda, a swordfish, Spongebob, the Kracken, Charlie the Tuna, the Little Mermaid and Aquaman. It was all a simulation, especially the teeth. Phelps swam against a hologram with fins. An illusion straight out of the Aleutians.

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I know, I know. It's only TV. The folks on Lost were never running from a real smoke monster, either. They didn't really cut off Ned Stark's head in Game of Thrones.

But in the name of tartar sauce, this was wrong. This was billed as a competition. It was about as phony as King Kong fighting Godzilla. Phelps could have raced bigger fish in his local pond. You might as well have played the Jaws theme music.

Look, there have been some trumped up sporting events for TV over the years. But when Billy Jean King was supposed to play tennis against an obnixious old geezer whose arteries were hardening as we spoke, well, she did. She beat Bobby Riggs, arteries and all.

And Jesse Owens? That was a real horse he ran against. True, the horse was spooked by the starter's pistol, and Owens got off to an incredible lead, but it was still a real horse. It wasn't a computer generated version of Mr. Ed.

Then there was Evil Knievel, who tried to jump a real Snake River Canyon. True, his motorcycle was really more of a rocket, and he didn't land on the other side, but there was only an acceptable level of leg-pulling. Hey, at least he had jumped real snakes earlier in his career, not just a canyon.

This? This was like rock stars gathering for a competition and seeing them all lip-synch. It was pro wrestling. It was like taking an Olympic fencing champion, and having him battle Zorro. It was movie special effects.


Personally, I'm stunned that Phelps – with his pristine reputation – would sign up for this.

Where does Phelps go from here? I'd advise him to laugh about it all. “What? Do you think I'm Dory? Those sharks have teeth! Did you ever see Bruce?”

Yeah, this will pass, because America has a short memory. Phelps has given all of us too many thrills for him to be involved in something this fishy.

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