Get ready, because Michael Phelps has apparently jumped the shark

It’s almost Fathers Day, so perhaps it’s time for a bit of a palate cleanser after the week we’ve had. With that in mind, let’s get ready for Michael Phelps and something which is most definitely not the Olympics. For reasons which remain a complete mystery, the Olympic champion has agreed to hook up with the Discovery Channel and race a Great White Shark as part of their annual Shark Week celebration. (CNN)

Michael Phelps is fast, but can he outswim a shark?

The Olympian will help kick off Discovery’s Shark Week in July.

“He is our greatest champion to ever get in the water: Michael Phelps. 39 world records. 23 Olympic golds. But he has one competition left to win,” a news release from the network reads. “An event so monumental no one has ever attempted it before. The world’s most decorated athlete takes on the ocean’s most efficient predator: Phelps V Shark — the race is on!” The eight-day marathon of all things sharks begins July 23.

Just for the record, I actually like Shark Week and inevitably tune in to at least a couple of the new shows they release on Discovery every year. And I don’t particularly hold anything against Phelps, though I don’t tend to follow the Summer Olympics all that much. Since it’s supposed to be an educational experience for the most part, I suppose this could be seen as just a fun break from whatever Phelps’ usual grind is and he can always say he’s doing it for a good cause.

But even if we accept what will no doubt be little more than a promotional stunt as some sort of real contest, you should rightly have questions. I mean, let’s be serious here. There are a few obvious queries which come to mind immediately and the Chicago Tribune hits the most glaring one.

It’s not clear exactly how Phelps, who turns 32 later this month, will be racing the great white. For instance, will it be a freestyle race, or maybe butterfly stroke? In any event, here’s hoping there’s more separating Phelps from his foe than just some floating lane markers. Phelps recently provided a possible preview of what to expect, when he posted a photo showing a great white passing ominously by a diving cage. “I was able to do something that I had always wanted to do,” Phelps said.

Unless they’re planning on making a total joke out of it, how does this work? Anything in the open ocean is going to involve a lot of infrastructure to keep Phelps safe. But it’s not going to be in a pool, right? No Great White has ever survived in captivity longer than five weeks. They just die if you put them in a tank. And even if you have somehow temporarily snagged one in a cage, how do you plan to convince it to swim your “course” against Phelps at its best speed?

A more amusing possibility (well… at least to me, anyway) is parking two boats 100 yards apart, chumming the water until a sizable Great White shows up, then just push Phelps into the water and yell, “Good luck!” If he makes it to the other boat in one piece I’m willing to declare him the winner.

More likely is that somebody has clocked the fastest speed they’ve ever seen a Great White doing and they’ll just challenge Phelps to swim the distance in a lane sans shark. It will be a vast letdown compared to the marketing they’re doing, but he’ll be more likely to come away with all of his limbs. But if he really is going to try something spectacularly cheesy as part of this event, I’d like to leave Mr. Phelps with one brief reminder of another famous person. His show never really recovered.