Make My Day
THE TOOTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TOOTH
by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- Sharks 1, shark experts 0.
Noted shark expert, Dr. Erich Ritter, has said that he has never been bitten by a shark because he understands shark behavior. Ritter, the chief scientist for the Global Shark Attack File (part of the Shark Research Institute), has even said he can keep them away just by modifying his heart rate.
Of course, you have to wonder about the validity of Ritter'sclaims after he was bitten by a 350 pound bull shark on April 10.
According to Marie Levine, executive director of the Shark Research Institute, Ritter was badly bitten by a shark in the Bahamas.
Upon hearing this, male reporters grimaced and doubled over insympathetic pain.
"No, no, the Bahamas," Levine said. "That little chain ofislands off the east coast of Florida."
She then explained how Ritter was bitten in the calf in waist-deep water off Walker's Cay, Bahamas, while being filmed for the Discovery Channel's Shark Week 2003. Shark Week is an educational series designed to help non-shark experts (i.e. sane people) understand sharks and shark behavior. And to scare bratty kids into minding their parents.
"See that shark, Timmy? If you don't stop jumping on the couch, that shark be in the toilet the next time you're on the potty."
Shark Week shows involve shark experts swimming around with sharks, facing the very real possibility of being bitten in the Bahamas. Shark Week is also known as "Dorks Who Swim In The Ocean Because TheyHave No Sense of Their Own Mortality."
Ritter had invited the cable network to film his work with bull sharks (translation: I wanted to get on MTV's "Jackass" show, but it wascanceled). He was working with lemon, black-tip, and bull sharks inmurky, waist-deep water when he was bitten.
"It was a serious injury," said Levine, making humor writersaround the world feel bad for that Bahamas joke. "He's going to be inthe hospital for four or five more weeks."
The shark bit all the way to the bone of his left calf, sending Ritter into shock. He was flown to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he underwent an arterial graft, and may need a skin graft later. Ritter, who is a diving instructor and a professor at the University of Zurich and Hofstra University in New York, has said in the past that most sharks will just bump an object in the water, and if the object is not prey, they'll move on. He also believes that most sharkattacks aren't really attacks, they're accidents.
Spilling a drink is an accident. Running your car into anothercar is an accident. Being bitten by a shark is an attack, whether theshark meant it or not.
But "accident" is what Levine and other experts have beencalling this. In Ritter's case, the bull shark was chasing a remora, andgot confused in the murky water.
"There was food in the water about 15 yards from Erich. A bullshark closed on the remora but in the low visibility bit Erich instead,"Levine said.
But Dr. Sam Gruber, a shark expert from the University of Miami(Go 'Canes!), called it "an accident waiting to happen."
"(Ritter's) method is basically to titillate tv cameras," Grubersaid in a Reuters news story. "He wants to impress people that he cancontrol these sharks and they will never bite him."
Gruber then began giggling uncontrollably and muttering "Hehheh, titillate, heh heh heh."
Ritter's injury comes on the heels of the media's near-obsessionwith shark attacks during 2001. Last year, there was a veritable mediafeeding frenzy about shark "accidents," including 8-year-old JessieArbogast who lost an arm to a bull shark in Florida, and KrishnaThompson, the guy who hired Johnny Cochrane (another shark) to sue OurLucaya Beach & Golf Resort after being attacked by a shark whileswimming at the resort's beach.
But despite the international attention, experts say the 76worldwide attacks were only an average year.
Oh good, as long as it was only an average year.
Look, modifying one's heart rate and understanding a shark'sbehavior is fine, but Ritter isn't Aquaman, and he can't communicatewith sharks through aquatic telepathy. Why is he playing with the stupidthings anyway? If I wanted to be a shark expert, I would sit inside a steelcage, placed inside a titanium cage, sitting on a flatbed truck drivingthrough the middle of Kansas, and watch Shark Week on tv. I wouldn't bestupid enough to actually get in the water with them!
I may not know much about sharks, but even I'm expert enough toknow better than to get into the water with them.
Now I realize that out of the millions of annual beachgoers, theodds are slim-to-none that someone is going to be bitten -- excuse me,"accidented" by a shark. But you greatly increase your chances of beingaccidented when you purposely play with sharks like they're some kind ofpointy-toothed puppy. They're not puppies, they're scary!
They're sinister, cold-hearted, cold-blooded, ruthless eating machines who enjoy an occasional snack on shark experts, and people stupid enough to swim in the ocean when there are perfectly good swimming pools just a few hundred yards away.
That's why that music plays whenever they're around.