OPINION: A tragedy is about to befall Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

A stone fish at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies frowns because no one is voting for him (photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies)
A stone fish at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies frowns because no one is voting for him (photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies)

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We East Tennesseans are self-effacing people. We’re proud but not prideful. Call us Hillbillies or yokels, it’s water off a duck’s back.

But there are limits to how far we’re willing to bend. Limits to the disrespect we’re willing to take. 

Even the most easy-going East Tennessean can get riled up in the right situation. 

Well, sir, that situation has presented itself. 

You see the folks over at USA Today like polls. They get folks on the interwebs to come together and vote on the best things in the country, even the world. It’s clickbait, in its purest form. 

Usually we don’t begrudge them such frivolous activities. USA Today gets 3-cents a click and its “readers” get a few moments of internet frivolity. 

But, dear reader, there has been a transgression, an insult that, if we allow it to stand, will stain our collective good reputations for generations to come. 

It seems, USA Today and its readers think the best Aquarium in North America is located in a place called Springfield, Missouri not Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (Click here to vote now)

This is an aggression that cannot stand. 

There are only days left to vote and our friends at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies are in second place. 

You heard me, right. Second. Place.

Voting for USA Today's 10Best ends July 6 and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, at the time of this writing, is in 2nd place. (screenshot from USA Today 10Best)
Voting for USA Today’s 10Best ends July 6 and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, at the time of this writing, is in 2nd place (screenshot from USA Today 10Best)

That, my friends, is some bullcrap. 

Every red-blooded, fish loving resident of North America knows damn well that the best Aquarium on the continent is not in some landlocked town in the heart of the Midwest – or maybe the spleen of the Midwest. I’ve honestly never locked down the exact borders of the Midwest and then they went and put Missouri in the SEC and everything got muddled. 

But that’s neither here nor there.

The fact is the best dang aquarium in North America is located in a little landlocked town in the mountains of East Tennessee and there’s simply no argument to be made. 

Sure, you might say, Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is quite nice and has Beluga Whales. 

Ha! I say Ha! 

Shedd Aquarium is languishing in 17th place. That’s like the Northwestern football of aquariums. The people of Chicago clearly don’t care enough about their aquarium to go to a meaningless online poll and cast a vote daily. If it was the Bears, you could bet your sweet bippy, they’d put down their deep dish pizzas and wide assortment of sausages and vote until they had blisters on their fingers. 

We shall not fall victim to the same mentality.

This sand tiger shark is sad that you aren't voting for him (photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies)
This sand tiger shark spends his entire day being the best shark he can be (photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

This situation absolutely requires a really futile gesture be done on somebody’s part, and I believe we’re just the people to do it. 

We need everyone who has a love of the Smokies and East Tennessee to click here and vote daily for the next four days and push our aquarium over the top. 

“Why John,” you might say. “Why do we care so much about which aquarium is the best. Can’t we celebrate all 20 aquariums and how wonderful they are?” 

I hear you, fictional voice I created to set up this next bit. 

We could do that. 

We could sing Kumbaya and hold hands and give all the sharks in all the aquariums participation trophies and just let everybody be happy. 

We could do that. But that ain’t our way. 

Our sharks and turtles and barracuda and those giant fish in that one tank and the piranhas, they go to work every day with one idea in their little fishy heads. They want to be the best.  

That giant fish in that one tank. (photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies)
That giant fish in that one tank (photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

What are we gonna say to them? How are we gonna look them in the eye – or in the other eye on the other side of their head? 

If we don’t stand up for our penguin brethren, who will? 

Plus, and I don’t want to cast aspersions or toss around unfounded accusations, I call shenanigans. 

That’s right, friend. This thing is fixed.

Springfield, Missouri? Is that even a real town? I’m willing to bet that more than half the voters think they’re voting for that town from the Simpsons. The ballots are invalid and should be tossed like a hanging chad. I wanted to work a fish pun there but the best I had was hanging cod and frankly that took me in an entirely different direction. 

That’s not all. 

How can you look these fish in the eye, and then the other eye, if we let Ripley's Aquarium lose their title of Best Aquarium in North America? (photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies)
How can you look these piranahas in the eye, and then the other eye, if we let Ripley’s Aquarium lose their title of Best Aquarium in North America? (photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

The nefarious you-know-what at USA Today slipped in the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. That’s right, they’re trying to split the powerful Tennessee fish lobby and slip some third-party usurper into the aquarium throne room. 

And that’s not the worst. 

Among the entrants is North Carolina Aquariums – multiple locations. That’s right. We’re competing with a nebulous network of aquariums across our neighbor to the East.

That’s fair? You don’t let one team have one quarterback and the other five quarterbacks, do you? 

I rest my case. 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the fact of the matter is this. When it comes to fishy vacation edutainment, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is clearly the best. It is your Democratic duty to go vote and stuff the ballot box – you really do think Chicago would be higher based on historical reputation – and let the world know in East Tennessee, our cod is an awesome cod. 

Click here to cast your vote daily for Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

Editor’s Note: This article, is written in a satirical voice for your entertainment, the contest is not fixed, but we would appreciate it if you lend your vote to help Ripley’s Aquarium maintain their title of USA Today’s Best Aquarium of North America. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.


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