Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick gave a press conference about the Manti Te'o affair today. Greg Doyel, who actually spells his last name D-O-Y-E-L not D-O-Y-L-E, assesses the situation. It is nautical, it is nonsensical, it is perhaps the worst metaphor I have ever read
Most of the Doyel's piece is unremarkable. However one paragraph is the stuff of legend. Please allow yourself to drift away on its uninterrupted gentle swells. Later we will dash it against the rocks of a line by line re-cap.
As for Swarbrick, he had better be right. The USS Manti Te'o has just entered unseen waters, and Jack Swarbrick attached himself to the hull. If this ship goes down, it takes Swarbrick down too. We'll never forget the 30 minutes he spent trying to convince us that the world really -- really -- is flat.
I am not, nor was I ever in the Navy. I am not a boat owner. Frankly I can't even back up a trailer, but as someone who made it to The Ionian Mission in the Aubrey Maturin novels, I feel pretty confident that this is the worst sailing metaphor in the history of sailing, or metaphors.
The USS Manti Te'o has just entered unseen waters,
I think the more typical danger for a ship to face would be uncharted waters, rather than unseen waters. A boat, travels on top of the water. You look out, you see water, you look down, you see water, in short, unseen waters, not a real thing. The thing is that despite being able to see the water, you can't always tell how deep it is, or whether there are rocks in it, or sandbars, or the French Navy. This is where a chart comes in. When we know where the danger is beneath the water (which we can still see), we can sail safely. But if waters are uncharted, we cannot. This is why, uncharted waters has become, over the years a metaphor for uncertainty, whereas "unseen waters," makes no sense.
and Jack Swarbrick attached himself to the hull.
I'm going to propose three metaphors which Greg might have meant here based on Jack Swarbrick's actions. 1) Jack Swarbrick tied his hands to the mast - knowing he would be unable to resist their song, Odysseus tied his hands to the mast of his ship when passing the Island of the Sirens to prevent himself from crashing on the rocks. Generally "to tie one's hands to the mast," is to commit to a course of action and prevent yourself any means of deviation from that course. Jack Swarbrick, by offering an unqualified defense of Te'o has tied his hands to the mast. 2) Jack Swarbrick has hitched his wagon to Te'o - a horse or other beast of burden offers a mode of power to move a wagon, where man alone cannot. So choosing the right beast is important. Swarbrick, identifying Te'o as trustworthy has hitched his credibility (i.e. his "wagon") to the horse that is Manti Te'o. 3) Jack Swarbrick has rode the horse that got him here - if something has contributed to your success, don't change it. Manti Te'o is the horse that the Notre Dame athletic program has ridden to on the field success and prior to today a positive and wholesome image. Swarbrick, wanting to continue those results will ride the horse that got him here. Doyel went with option 4 "attached himself to the hull." The only context I am aware of attaching to a hull is a barnacle. I have no idea what this means in the context of the Notre Dame athletic director and Manti Te'o.
If this ship goes down, it takes Swarbrick down too.
What Doyel seems to be invoking here is the idea that Te'o and Swarbrick are "all in the same boat," where the fate of one is the fate of all. Or perhaps, "the captain goes down with the ship," where Swarbrick as the leader will face the consequences of seaman Te'o's actions that sunk the ship. In both of these metaphors, the negative consequence is represented by drowning. That is going from floating on top of the water, to being under the water. In Doyel's metaphor, Swarbrick is already attached to the hull. Were the ship to sink, his situation is unchanged.
We'll never forget the 30 minutes he spent trying to convince us that the world really -- really -- is flat.
This. Makes. No. Sense. He's the captain of the ship, so he navigates, even through waters he can't see, maybe because he's attached to the hull, which isn't a great place to be at any time, but if the boat is sinking, you might as well be there because it's all underwater. And also, the captain would like to tell you that the earth is flat. Maybe this is why the water is unseen? It's running off the edge of the world? I think I'll do likewise.