Tripple Overtime: Michael Phelps vs. Great White Shark vs. Vegas... vs. Tripple OT?

Date Published: 
July 14, 2017

Whenever the last Olympics was, that’s when I wrote about the time I sort-of ate sushi with Michael Phelps.


He had just graduated and was already being touted as the next great American Olympian. I was heading into my senior year of high school sporting a solid-without-being-too-ostentatious-about-it 2.7 GPA and almost as many recently grown mustache hairs.

Let’s just say we both had a lot going for us.

Fast-forward two dozen or so gold medals and exactly a baker’s dozen “Tripple Overtime” readers later, and you’d probably have to resort to Wheaties boxes for the tie-breaker on so-far career success — where on one hand, Phelps has that commemorative “Lifetime Achievement” box, but on the other, I have that super rare one with the photo of me and my Little League baseball team crudely taped over Cal Ripken’s commemorative 2,131-consecutive-games box, so, hey, you tell me…

But while I’ve still got another year left to catch up on my first gold medal and second-22, and Phelps less than -365 days to get retweeted by Jaden Smith that time, we may never figure out who since-then-sushi bragging rights rightfully belong to, with the countdown to Shark Week 2017 closing in on not-to-be-sneezed-at GPA territory.

That’s when the retired Olympian and part-time Subway sandwich® salesman is set to dust off the ol’ Speedo for one last squeeze — which he’ll then try to put on an actual great white shark (yeah, like the actual shark kind) in a head-to-head race broadcast live on the Discovery Channel.

What’s being dubbed “Phelps vs. Great White Shark: The Battle for Ocean Supremacy” obviously comes across a little gauche, considering that Jaws and his pals have been pretty widely considered undisputed underwater champs for the past 420 million years and running, but apparently there’s already plenty of cheeky alternatives buzzing around the web, including, but by no means limited to: “The Flying Fish vs. The Great White” and “Great White vs. GOAT (Greatest of All Time),” along with all the memes that pair accordingly.

But even with the best-case scenario being the shark winning and then just going back to doing shark stuff, and worst-case scenario being America’s Golden Boy getting beaten fast before eaten fresh® by an actual dinosaur on live television, that hasn’t stopped the odds-makers in Vegas from trying to make things even more interesting.

I’m no Danny Ocean when it comes to either casinos or surmounting odds (or oceans, for that matter), but from what I’ve been able to gather from my very limited and, quite frankly, lazy research, it breaks down something like this:

Pros for sharks: Your average great white can grow up to 16 feet long and swim up to 35 mph. Pretty high up there, food-chain wise. Apparently aside from the one that spared the Fonz that time he, for some reason, had to jump over a shark to win a water-skiing contest in that episode of “Happy Days,” cold-blooded. Pretty aerodynamic, even, without swimming cap/Speedo. Can breathe underwater.

Cons for sharks: Outside of Pixar movies, cannot breathe above water. Not the brightest, I don’t think. Can’t swim backwards. Apparently has a weird thing about getting hit in the nose. Highly likely to violate basic race rules and Olympic etiquette. Also, much like anyone who’s ever eaten at Subway, sometimes confuses objects made from chemicals for actual food.

Pros for Michael Phelps: [not found]

Cons for Michael Phelps: Your average Michael Phelps only grows up to about 5 feet, 10 inches and swims somewhere in the 2.7 GPA range in terms of mph. In fact, according to the statistics from a 2016 Census that, if you want to know the truth, I pretty much just made up, not only does your average Michael Phelps average less than one Olympic gold medal per household, but some of them don’t even know how to swim (exact statistic unavailable through made-up 2016 Census).

That, however, is the breakdown of your average Michael Phelps.

For the above-average Michael Phelps — the one measuring up to 6 feet, 4 inches, with a 7-foot wingspan, who comes off only a little bit ostentatious in touting around his 39 world records, requires 12,000 calories per day during training, who somehow manages to make sandwiches made from shoe-rubber chemicals look like a viable lunch option, and who rarely speaks to anyone besides his agent via flip-phone when your friend Carrie invites him along for sushi with the gang, even though the gang already has the role of incredibly-successful-for-his-age-guy cast, obviously, and it’s probably going to be a whole thing for the hostess to have to bring out another chair now and everything — and so, but, anyway, when it comes to that Michael Phelps, the guys in Vegas are actually giving him a snowball’s chance.

Maybe they factored in not being scared of dolphins or something, but 11-to-2 odds for “the Baltimore Bullet” to dethrone the all-but-bulletproof King of 20,000 Leagues Under doesn’t seem so bad to me.

The line on that is looking like +550 for Phelps and -1,000 for the shark — terms of which I don’t actually understand but can usually get away with talking about by randomly peppering in words like “vig” and fading in and out of vague Brooklyn accents.

What I do understand is, either Michael Phelps is already bored with the shuffle of early retirement, or the ancient battle of man vs. beast will always be one that, no matter how big, fast, strong or heavily favored by Vegas the beast may be, man will always like his odds anyway.

That’s how it’s always been throughout history, the examples of which include without being limited to: Odysseus vs. the Cyclops, anything from ancient Greek mythology, really, the Michael Keaton Batman vs. Danny Devito, the Lego Batman vs. anyone with kids and without slippers during a late-night trip to the fridge, the kids from “The Sandlot” vs. James Earl Jones’ dog, anyone who’s ever skipped bail vs. “Dog: The Bounty Hunter” or cut in line vs. “the Soup Nazi,” more or less everyone except Australia and Canada probably against the real Nazis, every single person that’s ever tried to open a Capri Sun@ vs. trying to open a Capri Sun@, me vs. the Chick-fil-a drive-through on Sundays, whatever “Star Wars” was about, probably, the fate of American reality vs. American reality T.V., the fate of American music vs. Katy Perry lyrics, the fate of American everything vs. perpetual Hobson’s Choice, David vs. Goliath, David vs. Dentist, the people of Standing Rock vs. déjà vu (and then déjà vu all over again), the guy who played Spiderman in “Spiderman” vs. the guy who played Lex Luther in “Superman” in that movie about who invented Facebook, Bernie Sanders vs. people who still think he’s that guy who invented “Seinfeld,” Larry David vs. people who still think he’s that guy that ran for president, Coastal Point Managing Editor Tricia Titus vs. run-on sentences that at this point, who even can tell if they’ll end up having anything to with the rest of the narrative, Harry Potter vs. Twilight vs. Zombies, and, of course, the Fonz vs. physics in that one episode of “Happy Days” — whether fictional or factual, the odds have never quite seemed actual when it comes to the tall tales of men vs. monsters.

That being said, 11 to 2 could still make for a nice payout for an underachieving Millennial with a sometimes-Southie-sounding Brooklyn accent looking to pull a little wool and make an honest buck without having to put in an honest day’s work (because I mean, honestly, what am I, Amish or something?).

The right call to Vegas could even add some definitive answers to that whole since-sushi career-competition thing that Michael Phelps and I have going on and that he may or may not be wise to, depending on whether or not he’s one of the baker’s dozen that actually reads “Tripple OT.”

Then again, my getting rich would depend on him getting even more famous by snapping a 420 million-year win streak live on national television — but, then again, again, I can almost grow a full mustache now, so, I mean, you tell me.

Either way, go humans, boo monsters, and long-live tall tales and whatever Vegas vigs are. Maybe after Shark Week me and the Flying Fish will head to Flying Fish to both break chopsticks and make amends over some great white sushi. Here’s to hoping that with him back on his 12,000-calorie diet, the odds of separate checks are better than 11 to 2. [Editor’s note: You’d better hope your name’s not on that check, Tripp — it’s a violation of federal law to even catch or possess a white shark, let alone make it your dinner. And of the two of you, only the GOAT has enough money to afford a potentially $10,000 fine.]