The prospect of seeing Michael Phelps race against a great white during "Shark Week" drew millions of viewers to Discovery Channel this week.
It's safe to say that a large portion of that throng came away mightily disappointed that the Olympic superstar did not win swim alongside an actual shark but rather a digitally-inserted predatory fish.
Overnight, Phelps took to Facebook to defend the show and to take issue with the "haters" criticizing him for participating in what they saw as a deceptively-advertised stunt. "Some people just decide not to listen to some of the things that we do, and that's not my fault that you don't do that," Phelps said in a nearly hour-long Q&A with his Facebook audience.
"It's pretty easy to open up your ears and listen to either what the TV is saying, what the announcers are saying, or what I'm saying in interviews," he added.
"You can believe whatever you want," Phelps told another Facebook user. "Everything was either presented on air during multiple interviews that I did throughout Shark Week or the beginning of the show. Sorry you feel that way.
"For me, this was something I always wanted to do, and I was honored to be able to do it. So, I'm sorry that you feel that way. I feel very different."
Phelps' point was that he had made it clear beforehand that he would not be in the water at the same time as the shark. A Vanity Fair article published two days before his special aired contained this passage:
To be clear, Phelps will not be swimming in a pool, with a shark in an adjacent lane. (As the swimmer put it, "I don't think that would probably end very well.") Instead, the two will each swim 100 meters in the same open water, and their times will be compared.
Of course, not everyone read that story, or heard Phelps tell Jimmy Fallon much the same thing, before the much-hyped show. Some might have seen this Discovery promo, which does not make clear that Phelps would not, in fact, be competing head-to-head with a great white:
"All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn't a side-by-side race," Discovery said in a statement.
"Everybody wants to pick on something or say something or complain about something, so . . . I had fun racing a shark, and seeing those animals up close and personal," Phelps said, once back on dry land and in front of his computer Tuesday.
"If somebody actually wants to get in the water and race side-by-side with a great white, go ahead. You're not going to get the shark to swim in a straight line.
"And, yeah, it would be interesting to see," he added with a chuckle. "We'll leave it at that."
Phelps did offer an apology of sorts, saying, "For those of you who are disappointed, I'm sorry for that." At other times in his Facebook session, though, he turned the criticism back on those who were calling him out.
"It's truly incredible watching some of the questions that these haters have out there," Phelps said. "I mean, it's shocking. . . . There's always somebody out there that's going to take a jab, or say something negative about you."