By James Fiske
Our colleagues over at the Discovery Channel have seen the success of Shark Week grow exponentially since the beginning of the social media age—until last year. Discovery decided the iconic, weeklong, prehistoric fish extravaganza should be moved to late-June rather than early-July to avoid scheduling conflicts with the Rio Olympics. The adjustment to an age old, successful formula saw a 6.7% drop in 2016 viewership compared to the year before. CEO David Zazoff later admitted the mistake stating the timing of Shark Week 2016 was simply “too early”.
In an effort to help stabilize ratings for 2017, Zazoff has decided to employ the timeless and increasingly popular tactic of: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.
Contrary to popular belief, Shark Week is not actually 7 days long—it is eight. But, despite its misleading title, this week (and a day) of programming is as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and—Michael Phelps? Yes, Michael Phelps. With a well-needed boost in ratings, Discovery has turned to history’s greatest Olympian to help steady the ship.
Admittedly, Michael Phelps is the undisputed fastest human to dive into a body of water. However, Michael is a human. I don’t want to get too technical but humans swim as a hobby. And although swimming may be a bit more than a hobby for Phelps, sharks are fish—and fish swim to survive. Is there any way that Michael Phelps could ever beat a shark in a race? That’s what I’m here to figure out. Which sharks could Michael Phelps actually outswim?
To lay the ground rules, I want to be fair to both competitors. The race will take place over the course of 100m. Although he is widely heralded as the fastest man to ever swim the Butterfly stroke, Phelps’ best time over the length of 100m was in the 2008 Beijing Olympics during the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle. It took him just 47.51 seconds to swim the entirety of the race, so this will be the baseline for his time.
1) Great White
2) Tiger Shark
3) Whale Shark
4) Basking Shark
As you can clearly see, Michael Phelps has no business being in the same pool as a shark. In fact, he has no business racing most ocean dwellers. Here is a quick list of notable sea creatures that Michael Phelps would actually have a good chance of beating in a race.