The shark has been menacing and terrifying for over a decade. Sharks can only be found in two places on earth: the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
–Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn), “Strange Wilderness”
We, as in all of humanity, really don’t know a lot about sharks. It could be argued that we don’t know what we don’t know (as a certain Mr. Rumsfeld once said), but because there is a lot of misinformation out there, it is difficult to disseminate the real facts from the shark bait, so to speak. Bad facts come from almost everywhere, popular culture being the biggest offender. As great a movie as Jaws is – sporting John Williams’ famous two-note score that is now synonymous with sharks in itself – the idea that sharks will randomly attack people has been deconstructed for decades since the movie came out. Even though the movie was certainly not bad, it remains one of the most popular sources of things that just aren’t true about sharks. Even the movie itself has had some dubious nuggets of trivia spread about it, but that’s beside the point. We really don’t know a lot about sharks. Some people do, though, and it is their mission to fix that for the rest of us.
So of course there are a number of initiatives aimed at increasing awareness, not the least of which is Discovery Channel’s Shark Week (which, due to careful timing, this article is published several weeks too early for). But then you’ve got books (with terrifying-sounding names like THE DEVIL’S TEETH or DEMON FISH), documentary films (shark-umentaries?) like Sharkwater, and thanks to the Bicycle brand of the US Playing Card Co., shark trivia playing cards.
The Sharks cards (not to be confused with the idiomatic “card shark”) each contain a unique photograph of a shark, along with an accompanying morsel of trivia about sharks. As long as you’re actually reading the cards and not just flipping through them as fast as possible (I advise playing something like Freecell, so you will be forced to pay closer attention to the cards), you’ll have ample opportunity to learn a thing about a shark with every move. The trivia text is printed in both English and French, though French-reading players will have to play the cards upside-down in order to read them. The quality of the photos is about as good as can be expected, and as these are manufactured under the Bicycle imprint, they bear the same air-cushion finish that the brand is well known for.
The selections of trivia on the cards certainly don’t help much to dispel the myths of sharks being soulless ultra-violent killers of everything (one card states that the shark’s biggest enemies are other sharks, which will spark fights and feeding frenzies), but I suppose that makes the deck appealing more to the 11-year-old son who wants to learn everything he can about America’s favorite ocean predator, than to the academic shark enthusiast (shark-thusiast?) who must solve the mysteries of nature.