Guest editorial by Chris DeSantis, originally published at SwimmingWorld.TV
ATLANTA, Georgia, September 16. I had been anticipating last night for weeks. When I first heard of the show "Shaq Vs", I dreamed of Shaquille O'Neal's potential matchup with a world-class swimmer. That dream quickly materialized. Shaq would swim against Michael Phelps, and it would be televised.
For those of you who may not know the premise of the program, it's pretty simple. Its a one hour show where Shaq takes on the best in the world at their own sport, with some handicaps to make it a bit fairer for the Diesel. Earlier this year, Shaq took on Misty May and Kerri Walsh, although I didn't watch because I have a deep resentment for Beach Volleyball. It always seems to take up way too much Olympic broadcast time while swimming should be on.
Initial excitement turned to paralyzing doubt, however. I worried that somehow the handicap would be so severe that Shaq might beat Phelps, leading people to conclude that Swimming was a third-rate sport. I also worried that the Swimming people might come off as really goofy and awkward next to the always affable Shaq. My gut-check review after watching last night? It was actually really good and could have been much much worse. Here's an embed of the show (which expires on Oct. 19, 2009), followed by my personal highlights:
1. Shaq paying respect – My fears about Shaq beating Phelps because of handicaps weren't calmed by the first race, which consisted of Shaq racing a 25 while Phelps did a 50 with a 5 second head start. Shaq won for two reasons:
a. Phelps had a bum ankle from the woman who plowed through a red light into his Escalade just days before filming
b. Phelps also clearly dogged it a little bit for dramatic effect. Anyway the best swimmer in the world, even on a bum ankle, can't go faster than 24 from a push? I say no. There was some disagreement as to whether the pool was set up for yards or meters. Can we get confirmation? If it was set up for meters then Phelps 1:54 200 medley was pretty insane considering the circumstances.
However, after the race Shaq seemed pretty impressed by how quickly Phelps could catch up to him.
2. Bob Bowman – I was a little worried when Bowman met Shaq. He looked nervous and I worried that he would come off stiff on the big stage. As it went on though, I thought Bowman did a respectable job. Watching him get genuinely excited about Shaq trimming his 25 time during their filmed workout was pretty fun. He took his job seriously and was himself.
3. Swimmers besides Phelps – It was pretty cool to see Ariana Kukors, Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer get involved. The underwater shots of them swimming were pretty awesome and really highlighted the world-class ability of the swimmers, especially juxtaposed with shots of Shaq swimming. Also, I loved Ariana explaining to Shaq what the medley was and the girls giving Shaq pacing tips for a 50.
4. Swimming Inside Jokes – I seriously did not expect this show to be as intelligent as it actually was. When Shaq dropped the "FINA says these are banned" in relation the bodysuits the two guys were wearing, I have to admit I was pretty shocked. However, it got better from there. My head nearly exploded when Phelps emerged victorious in a tight race and Shaq immediately deadpanned "I guess that makes me the black Michael Cavic.
All in all it was a pretty enjoyable program. Now can we settle this once and for all and get Lebron in the pool?