People, let's just leave the animals alone, okay? Stay out of their habitat? Can we do that?
I'm not sure how many horrific stories or near misses we need to have before humans realize that mixing with wild creatures, on land and at sea, whose default switch is set at "DEVOUR" when they see red-blooded humans is hazardous to our health. I feel like there have been enough tales recently to where it feels like the animals are finally becoming more finely tuned in their self-awareness and it's just a matter of time before they rise up and destroy us all. (That is, if the tsunami caused by the massive tectonic plate shift in the Pacific Northwest doesn't do it first.)
The latest story in "beast attacks man" wasn't a safari or a random bear strolling into a neighborhood. This was an actual sporting event, and here's the kicker — it occurred on live TV, like every animal phylum was trying to send us a televised message, like General Zod in the Oval Office in Superman 2.
EXACT. SAME. THING.
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Here's what happened — the latest stop in the world tour for surfing (Who knew there was a "world tour" for surfing?) emanated from a place called Jeffreys Bay in South Africa over the weekend. Australian surfing champion Mick Fanning was one of the competitors, and on Sunday, as he was getting ready to perform in his next heat, Fanning was attacked by a shark on live television.
Let me repeat that — Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark on live television.
According to reports (it's difficult to discern from the video, which we have for you below), the shark attacked Fanning, knocked him off his board and Fanning punched the shark twice. Rescue crews were quickly able to fish Fanning out of the ocean and no more harm was done. Courtesy of news.com.au, here's Fanning's account:
“It came up and got stuck in my leg rope,” Fanning said from the jet ski. “I instantly just jumped away. It kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins. I didn’t see teeth. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me. I punched it in the back.”
“I was just about to start paddling again and all of a sudden I had this instinct that something was behind me. Then I started getting pulled under water and the thing came up and I was on my board and it was right there and I saw the whole thing, it was right there. I was getting dragged under by my leg rope,” he said.
“I felt like it was dragging me under water and then my leg rope broke so I started swimming and screaming ... I just can’t believe it, I’m just tripping out.”
The visual is jarring and scary. Let's go to the footage, followed by Zapruder analysis:
Here we go...
0:02 — We hear about shark attacks all the time, but we never know what they look like from the outset. Well, if you've ever wondered, now you know. We got the Rated G version of how they begin in this footage. This is one of those times where you wish you could hear the producers talking to the announcers on the back channel in their ears telling them what to say or do. How do you handle a shark attack mid-telecast? (For the record, on the list of sporting events where we'd want "back channel audio access," Bane's attack on Heinz Field in The Dark Knight is easily number one — "Um, ok, the field is caving in and people are getting swallowed…cut to camera 3….what the….")
0:10 — "Holy shit," says one of the announcers. Pretty sure the producer didn't say "Okay, now curse," although it would've been completely justified.
0:29 — Lifeboats and rescue crews make a beeline for Fanning, and a horn sounds signaling that play has been suspended. I know that there is inherent danger in any sport. Golf has lightning, NASCAR has crashes, every play in a football game is life-threatening — I'm just saying, if you have a sport where getting mauled by another live creature is in play, you may want to reconsider that sport. Again, just saying.
0:50 — Fanning climbs on the lifeboat with a clear case of "What in the blue fuck just happened?" body language.
1:00 — The safety team fishes Fanning's competitor out of the water as well, and he has a "So Fanning forfeits, right? I'm the champ, right?!?" look on his face. I just don't trust that guy.
1:12 — Nothing from nothing, but for having just seen one of the surfers almost chewed up as an appetizer by a man-eating shark, these jet ski guys sure are taking their sweet time getting the hell out of there. Guys, it's not a murder scene, there's no reason to wait for the forensics team. Jeez oh Pete, I'm waiting for these assholes to start rolling out yellow crime scene tape.
1:22 — Nearly 90 seconds in and the announcers have completely avoided saying the word "shark," like they're trying not to jinx a no hitter. Finally, one of them acknowledges a "fin" and is thankful that Fanning is "in one piece." Guys, it's ok to admit it — the sharks are sick of us trespassing and loitering in their house.
1:38 — "We've seen the Shark Rule come into effect…." Ok, the announcers finally say the word "shark" but only because surfing apparently has something called a "Shark Rule." I'm sorry, if your sport has a rule in its rulebook, specifically designed to address the possibility that shark attacks may occur, then it's more like the Hunger Games than it is an actual sport.
3:45 — The surfing sideline reporter makes his way over to Fanning to discuss what just happened, which begs the question — tougher sideline interview, dude who just practically got killed by a shark or Gregg Popovich? How about if you got to interview Popovich right after Pop almost got mauled by a shark?
CRAIG SAGER (in a hideous plaid wet suit): "So, Pop, take us through what just happened out there…."
SAGER: "How do you plan on moving forward?"
POPOVICH: "Surf better."
SAGER: "Thanks, Pop."
POPOVICH: "Fuck off."
5:00 — We now go to the hot blond sideline reporter back on land and she has the Deputy Commissioner, Renato Hickel, who sounds conspicuously like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and kind of looks like him. Amazingly, he's talking about assessing the situation and figuring out what to do before making a decision on how to handle everything. Like he's intimating that GOING BACK IN THE WATER is a possibility. Um, dude, just declare them co-champs and be done with it. This isn't a rain delay or the MLB All-Star game. We are good with a tie, if it means that both surfers get to maintain all their limbs.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and they canceled the rest of the event, with the World Surf League releasing the following statement:
“We are incredible grateful that no one was seriously injured today. Mick’s composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic and the rapid response of our Water Safety personnel was commendable - they are truly world class at what they do. The safety of our athletes is a priority for the WSL and, after discussions with both finalists, we have decided to cancel the remainder of competition at the J-Bay Open. We appreciate the ongoing support we have in South Africa and once again want to express out gratitude to the Water Safety Team.”
So, one more time, my public service announcement to anyone looking to go on a safari or thinking about swimming in the ocean recreationally (or professionally, for that matter) — just don't. There are perfectly good vacations and hobbies to take up that don't involve tempting the wildlife into sautéing you in their saliva and swallowing you whole. You should know this. Don't say I didn't warn you. If you still want to risk life and limb petting cheetahs or spooning with sharks, that's on you.
All I know is that I've never been attacked by a shark while sitting at a blackjack table.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.