Where Was The Enthusiasm For Diana Nyad's "Swim For Relief?"
I've reached the point in my "career" as an "athlete" where the ultimate goal of my daily runs is not to incur bodily harm during them. Earlier this week, when a pair of leafy twigs materialized in my path, I did the only sensible thing: turned around, dashed home and called 911. During this morning's excursion around the neighborhood - lo, but three hours ago! - I found myself confronted by a street gang of feral geese that had breakfast-y designs on my thighs. It took all the courage I have left (if rendered tangible, this would fit comfortably inside a miniature thimble) to yell "cheese!" for the poorly focused photo that accompanies this column. That red in their eyes is not a camera-induced effect; it's bloodlust.
You can imagine the admiration I feel, then, for aging individuals who defy the clock, the creaks of their bodies and sometimes common sense, and push themselves to physical extremes. The most insane recent case in point: 64-year-old Diana Nyad, who, because she's awesome, swam from Havana to Key West. That's, like, far. Given that I ruptured an Achilles typing that last sentence, I can't begin to fathom the endurance and willpower it must've taken to complete such a task, especially from somebody more than two decades my senior.
It was inevitable that corporate America would come calling, and it's to Nyad's credit that her first post-superswim endeavor benefits Superstorm Sandy victims. For 48 consecutive hours that ended today - coincidentally, I'm sure - during morning-show prime time, Nyad swam laps in a pop-up pool in New York's Herald Square. But for the life of me, I can't understand how Nyad's corporate benefactor, Procter & Gamble, wasn't able to generate more enthusiasm around it. Here we have a celebrated personality only a few weeks removed from her greatest triumph, and yet if it weren't for the Good Morning America plugs you'd have never known Nyad was about to don her swimmies once anew.
You know who I blame for this? I blame the video-making-person-type guy/gal, that's who. The build-up clip for P&G's "Swim For Relief" doesn't even feel like an afterthought; it feels like an afterthought that the afterthought had after downing three beers and aimlessly flipping around for something good to watch on TV.
It kicks off with footage of Nyad emerging from the Atlantic after her cross-ocean swimabout. Okay, great, everybody's inspired now, so it's time for the rousing call to action, right? No. Instead, we get solemn pronouncements ("at the height of her accomplishments, she has decided to swim for something more"), then a series of interview/image juxtapositions too banal to even qualify as manipulative.
Each of Nyad's three post-swim messages is paired with post-storm footage. "Never, ever give up" bleeds into flood footage and Brian Williams in somber-newshead mode. "You are never too old to chase your dreams" (does that make any sense in this particular context? Whatever) is accompanied by shots of a half-leveled house and "took our home - not our heart" graffiti. "It looks like it's a solitary sport, but it's a team" segues into the P&G-as-respectable-corporate-citizen part of the program, with brand-attired minions assisting in post-storm recovery efforts.
Then a bathed, rested, no-longer-in-the-throes-of-overexertion-and-delirium Nyad comes back to make a few more vague pronouncements ("we have not forgotten you"), and that's it. Feel like lending a hand now? Plan to check in on "Swim For Relief"? Me neither. The success or failure of the charitable campaign certainly didn't hinge on getting web monkeys like me to click and squawk, but it sure wouldn't have hurt to have invested the video with something approximating passion or enthusiasm.
The P&G video folks put more effort into the clips they posted during Nyad's swim, tapping Richard Simmons and the reliably smarmy Michael Ian Black to... I guess "liven up the proceedings" is the best way to put it. Judging by the YouTube counts - a total of 1,191 views for the 15 videos through today at 3 p.m. ET, which includes six views of "Charmin Bear Dances to Support Swim For Relief" by me as I attempted to convince myself that I hadn't hallucinated it - they might not have succeeded.
But it's all good. Uninspired video support or no, "Swim For Relief" raised more than $105,000. Nyad put her swim trunks where her mouth was, or something. Good for her. Helping people in need is good.