The ongoing furor in response to Michael Phelps not actually getting into open water with a great white shark to race side by side is the dumbest and most hilarious in recent pop culture history. And it’s continuing! Hallelujah.
Tuesday night, Phelps took to Facebook Live to discuss his inability to operate Facebook Live, the world of competitive swimming, his son Boomer (“I love love love love watching him drink out of a cup”), haters, and those who are still mad that he didn’t swim alongside the goddamn shark on the Discovery Channel’s Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White.
“Everybody wants to try to pick on something or say something or complain about something. I had fun racing a shark and seeing those animals up-close and personal,” he said in response to a fan’s comment. “If someone actually wants to get in the ocean and race a side-by-side with a great white, go ahead. You’re not going to get the shark to swim in a straight line, and it would be interesting to see. We’ll leave it at that.”
Yes, it would be interesting to see. That was, in fact, the conceit of Phelps vs. Shark.
“You can believe whatever you want. Everything was either presented on-air during multiple interviews that I did throughout Shark Week or the beginning of the show,” he said, getting snippy in response to another comment. “Sorry you feel that way. For me, this is something I’ve always wanted to do and I was honored to be able to do it. I’m sorry that you feel that way, I feel very different.” It is true that in multiple interviews before the airing of the show, Phelps made clear he would not be racing the shark side by side. This was also made clear in the show’s first segment, though other media leading up to the show made it seem like Phelps would be racing side-by-side with the shark. When all is said and done, Phelps not actually racing the shark has given us at least as much to talk about as if he actually did. What’s the difference???
Phelps kept his cool throughout the Facebook Live, though he did seem to near exasperation. “We did mention everything up front, James,” said Phelps to another commenter. “Some people just decide not to listen to some of the things we do and that’s not my fault that you don’t do that. It’s pretty easy to open up your ears and listen to either what TV is saying, what announcers are saying or what I’m saying in interviews.” Take that, James!
“Joyce, it wasn’t a fake shark, it was actually a real shark that we had swim in a straight line,” he said. God, Joyce!!!!
Below, you can watch the entire nearly hourlong broadcast, in which Phelps early on apologizes to those who were disappointed but adds, “I had one of the most exciting two weeks of my life being able to dive with these animals, see these animals face up...up close and personal and really just learn more about them.” Seems like even with all the controversy it was worth it. If humans can’t live in harmony, Phelps at least suggests that humans and fish can.