I can remember when I was a kid and the Jaws phenomenon struck. Shark mania was everywhere in the media, and I got my hands on this book called “Shark Attack.” It was a non-fiction, statistical account of shark attacks throughout the world. It cut through a lot of the myths, and it did it in a very interesting way, to me.
The entire response to the shark phenomenon in the culture was, basically, hysteria. Nobody swam in the ocean for the entire decade of the 70’s. Nobody. Zero. The fish themselves began spending more time on land. It was a scary time for all the little fishes. Of course no one understood that a shark is just a big fish when you get him hooked; everybody just panicked. But rather than pander to the hysteria, the author of “Shark Attack” cut through it all with a lucid statistical analysis of the subject. Phobic little edge player wannabe that I was, that was right up my alley.
I didn’t want to get eaten, so I decided to read carefully. I read that book until I knew where every species of shark on earth hunted, and what kind of people they liked to eat; right down to the color of the swimming suit, the % of body fat they liked – and everything else. I wanted the best of it against the sharks. I wasn’t going to just gamble on it. I saw them eat “Quint” (in Jaws), and he had studied them long and hard before he met his grisly demise – so I knew I had to study good. I opened up the book. Lucky for me, I had an unexpected treat waiting for me in those pages. I was getting ready to learn the art of the proposition bet.
It seemed most everyone was getting attacked in three feet of water or less, within very close range of the beach. The conventional wisdom, in response to this finding, wondered if maybe it was safer to swim in the Marianna Trench or something, somewhere where there weren’t so many people getting attacked. Well, that kind of thinking is exactly what brings the money to the edge player. But there’s a sucker born every minute, so a few entrepreneurial souls started running “junkets” out to the deep water, to swim where it was “safe” – and they charged a hefty price for the service. No one ever came back alive from those junkets, and carcharodon carcharias (great white) got fattened up like never before. So, what was going on? It’s obvious now, but not to a ten-year-old trying to outplay the sharks.
Since 99% of people who swim in the ocean swim at the beach, it is only natural that the great majority of swimmers attacked by sharks will get attacked within close range of the beach – in shallow waters. That is where the swimmers are. A shark can’t attack someone in the Marianna Trench when there is no one swimming there. But if you go out there to get away from the “dangerous” beach, you are a thousand times more likely to get attacked there than at the beach. The distinction is the distinction between total occurrences and frequency. Frequency is the edge player’s habitat. He is not concerned with how “often,” but how “frequent.” That’s his edge. In other words, attacks occur a hundred times more often at the beach, but are a thousand times more likely in the deep. It’s up to you. You have to decide which “hand” to play, and then play it to its logical conclusion.
But keep in mind, nobody ever came back from those UFA Marianna Trench “junkets”Casino my Dad used to run. It was brutal watching those live ones meet their demise at sea, deserved though it was. We threw in a little chum to expedite things, so we could get back and get the next junket kicked off. The suckers were lined up and ready to go. Who’s fault was it? I don’t’ know, ask P.T. Barnum. All this is just what makes the world go around, as I understand it.
As shipmate, I learned this lesson well: These people have miscalculated the best of it, and here come the sharks. That was a metaphor for every proposition bet that followed later in life. You start asking yourself “What is the hidden relationship of facts. What is really going on here?” That’s an advanced concept to a ten-year-old, like a starter set to getting the best of it. That Steven Spielberg, man, he’s all right. It scared me a little when the shark ate the helicopter, but I’ve been trying to tell people for years: These sharks will stop at nothing. They got no scruples.
So do your swimming in the shallow water, sports fans. There’s safety in numbers. You get heads-up with a shark in over your head, you got no outs. Truer words were never spoke. Be careful out there.