For more than 20 years, Shark Week has educated audiences by showing them how, with razor-sharp teeth and barrelfuls of dead seals, people can be enticed to watch the Discovery Channel.
And while the danger can seem extreme, it's important to keep in mind the following statistics:
1. There are nearly 7 billion people in the world.
2. Sharks kill fewer than ten people each year.
3. Therefore you will be killed by a shark.
My wife, Michelle, doesn't understand this. She watches every minute she can of this week-long celebration of nature's most efficient killing machine since O.J. Simpson. She feels she's let herself down if she misses the mauling of a single South African surfer.
Things Michelle sees on the tube never bother her much. Before we go to bed she enjoys watching shows that give me nightmares, like "River Monsters" and "House Hunters."
Otherwise she's very sweet. She loves animals. Sometimes she'll cry just because she saw a particularly cute puppy. She'd have that reaction for a baby seal, too, except when it's being eaten.
I'm the exact opposite. I don't care about animals, but I also don't want to watch them die. I feel for the seals, most of whom never signed Discovery Channel waivers. Like most guys, I find nature okay in doses small enough to whap with a newspaper. Michelle has made insect-whapping my job, I believe, because it's like a live nature show she gets to direct: "Okay, first kill the mosquito, then the spider. No, I can't see, use your other hand. Was there blood?"
Maybe that's why she feels so safe watching sharks. Maybe deep down she believes if a shark ever attacked her, I'd just whap it: "Honey, I can't see, have him eat your other arm."
The shark compulsion runs deep in Michelle. Twenty years ago, while my male friends and I would play house and imagine our dream wedding tuxedos, Michelle pretended she was a shark: using her hand as a dorsal fin; chomping her teeth; digesting Richard Dreyfuss; etc. In college she wore a shark costume, sometimes even on Halloween.
But today she has a white collar job in public relations, an industry completely removed from sharks except for the PR guys for Shark Week. So I dutifully sit with her on the couch while she gets her fix, and I'll often find myself getting into the show. Usually Discovery baits me with science. For example, on one show a scientist got into a rickety kayak surrounded by sharks to determine, scientifically speaking, whether the network would air footage of his grisly death.
No, the scientist wound up okay, but my point is, these shows often feature innocuous, non-deadly aspects of sharks, such as how they feel about post-impressionist painters. Then, just as my fascination piques: seal death footage.
But it's only a week, and I try to keep in mind that it's just harmless escapism. If I'm busy thinking about sharks, I don't have to worry about affording a condo.
Scott Green is an award-winning humor columnist who has written regularly for the Washington Post and CBSNews.com. In 2009 he was named one of the top 100 young journalists in America, and now shares his thoughts on pop culture, politics, sex and relationships atScottSays.com. He lives in Chicago with his wife and their two TVs, ages 4 and 3.