Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Phelps vs. shark: Man, is he overmatched

Having exhausted all intraspecies competition, Michael Phelps is supposed to race a shark Sunday as part of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.”

“Phelps vs. Shark: The Battle for Ocean Supremacy,” is one of the working titles. After “Phelps vs. Shark: It’s What’s for Dinner,” didn’t make the cut.

Which makes me very glad there is no “Kangaroo Week,” else Floyd Mayweather would be in line to box one in that channel’s first pay-per-view offering.

And “Weasel Week,” would seem to necessitate some kind of uncomfortable showdown between a stoat and Bobby Petrino.

But for now, we will have to make do with a match-up between a 23-time Olympic gold medalist and a very motivated great white out to revenge Roy Scheider’s ridiculously lucky game-winning shot in “Jaws.”

Vegas has established Phelps as an almost 6-to-1 underdog, although I’d like to think no actual wagering is available. For there is nothing remotely fair about this, given the shark’s home-element advantage. Chlorinate the ocean, then we’ll talk.

The history of man vs. animal racing is not one covered up in glory. With 1936 Olympic track and field champion Jesse Owens in financial straits, he conceived of a series of match races against horses. He did well over 100 meters, banking on the fact that the starter’s pistol would startle the beasts and give him an adequate head start. But the spectacle couldn’t help but demean. That was a little like the Dalai Lama taking a job writing for a fortune-cookie company.

We, the caretakers of the planet until the damn, dirty apes take over, should know our place in the athletic food chain. We are neither the fastest nor the strongest on the globe. I’ve listened to enough talk radio to begin to wonder whether we’re even the smartest. We really need to stay in our own lane, and keep the competition between our own kind. And appreciate the fact that were it solely up to our physical abilities, we would be delicacies rather than lords of our domain.

There have been few specifics offered as to how this Phelps vs. Shark race was going to be staged, how legit it will be. He is going to be wearing some sort of mono-fin that will even some things up physiologically. And he’ll spend actual time in sharky waters. But how you get a shark to stay in its lane and obey the starter’s instructions, I don’t know.

I suspect, however this thing is arranged, Phelps loses. And I expect he lives to talk about it.

But how about a rematch, big guy, at the site of our choosing? Say, 18 holes at Pebble Beach?

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.