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As Michael Phelps is foolishly ‘racing sharks,’ something more formidable lurking in pool

Retired Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps arrives at the Kids’ Choice Sports Awards at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Retired Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps arrives at the Kids’ Choice Sports Awards at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles earlier this month. Invision via AP

Ah, Shark Week.

It’s a time many look forward to every summer.

The week is a time to celebrate sharks, as many cable TV channels run tons of shows on the species. The variety of programs is vast (I even saw one with a title something like “Alien Sharks.”).

Many folks will feel a void now as Shark Week has come to a close. However, I wouldn’t count Michael Phelps among those folks.

The week started with a humiliating publicity stunt and ended with a swimmer who might just soon come after his records in the pool.

While I understand the fascination of Shark Week, I’ve never really gotten into it myself. But when you hear in passing that Discovery Channel will televise the most celebrated Olympian of all time racing a Great White shark, it’s likely to grab your attention.

It had mine – at least momentarily.

However, I had totally forgotten about it until seeing a story move on the wire here at work that was detailing what was quite a phenomenon – but not in a good way.

Therefore, I had to YouTube it. My jaw dropped when I realized what I was watching.

It was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.

Phelps did not race a real shark. Instead, he raced a CGI (computer-generated imagery) version of a shark. From what I’ve read since, the simulation was not even all that accurate as Phelps lost the 100-meter race by a mere 2 seconds.

He even played into the narrative, tweeting “Rematch? Next time..warmer water.” He later apologized to “those of you who are disappointed, I’m sorry for that,” while also referring to some who had negative comments as “haters.”

I’d rather watch Chad Johnson race – and beat – a real horse rather than see something like this again.

It was a bad look for Phelps. If he was going to do something that ridiculous, he should have just asked for a role in the next “Sharknado” movie. At least then we would have known ahead of time that he was going to look foolish and we could then embrace it.

While it was a loss – in more ways than one – for Phelps, it was a win for Discovery Channel and Shark Week. Any publicity – however ridiculous – that draws viewers is a win for a cable TV network, and this stunt reportedly hauled in 5 million.

And while Phelps awaits his “rematch” with the marine mammal – I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re hearing about him in some form at this time again next year – he might just have some true competition in the pool.

Fellow American swimmer Caeleb Dressel tied Phelps in winning his seventh gold medal at the world championships on Sunday. The day before he became the first swimmer to win three golds in one night at a major international meet.

While Dressel – who has two gold medals to his name – is still a far cry from challenging Phelps and his 28 Olympic medals (23 gold), he may just pose a true threat

However, Phelps retired following the 2016 Olympics. Of course, he did so in 2012 before making a comeback.

It will be interesting to see if the 20-year-old Dressel eventually takes aim at Phelps’ records. And – if he does – will Phelps decide to get back into the pool and try to add to his numbers and further cement his legacy as the best Olympian of all time?

Only time will tell.

However, the timing might just be a reminder that Phelps should get back in the chlorine and leave the saltwater to the marine animals.

He’d certainly have much more to gain – and a lot less to lose.

On tap

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans begin a three-game series at Frederick, with 7 p.m. games Monday and Tuesday and noon first pitch Wednesday. They then return home for a four-game series against the Salem Red Sox (7:05 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 6:05 p.m. Sunday). … Expect to see some players changing teams as Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is 4 p.m. Monday. … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen International for the I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen at 3 p.m. Sunday. … The PGA Tour heads to Reno, Nevada for the Barracuda Championship from Thursday through Sunday. … In tennis, the men compete in the ATP Generali Open, ATP & WTA Citi Open and ATP Abierto Mexicano de Tenis MIFEL beginning Monday. The women begin play in the WTA Tour Bank of the West Classic as well as the ATP & WTA Citi Open on Monday.

David Wetzel: 843-626-0295, @MYBSports

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