Discovery’s Shark Week is upon us and the network hyped for weeks what would be its crowning glory: Michael Phelps racing a great white shark.
The most-watched week of the year for Discovery, which really doesn’t even need a gimmick, premiered with just that – a gimmick.
— Shark Week (@SharkWeek) July 15, 2017
Shark Week kicked off with the 28-time Olympic medalist racing a shark in what was called “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” to much attention and fan fare.
There was only one problem: Phelps didn’t really race a great white shark.
I was able to do something that I had always wanted to do! https://t.co/2CJplWMkMP
— Michael Phelps (@MichaelPhelps) June 11, 2017
Now, in the swimmer’s defense, he repeatedly said he was not racing a shark in open water. The thought that he would isn’t really here or there, the point was some savvy marketing tricks made it seem as if he would.
And of course, when it didn’t happen, there was a lot of backlash.
— Shark Week (@SharkWeek) July 24, 2017
For 57 minutes, the show explained that Phelps would wear a special wetsuit and monofin, there were experts talking about data and shark swim speeds, and footage of Phelps training for the race.
Then, there was an about-face.