The following is the full text of an e-mail sent to Drew Sharp by J. Swift.
I read and reread your January 13 column in the Detroit Free Press but cannot understand what you are trying to say. http://www.freep.com/article/20110113/COL08/101130632/1054/sports06/Its-Brandons-legacy-on-line-now Your column received a grade of “F.”
I. In the following section, for example, you struggle but fail to create vivid metaphors from clichés:
1.“If Hoke returns the Wolverines to its level of nine-victory relevance -- with the occasional Bowl Championship Series bowl appearance -- Brandon goes down as the steely nerved protector of the sacred Block M who righted a wayward ship.”
a). a knight who rights a ship? b). a wayward ship? Perhaps a “‘sinking ship”? Who or what “goes down,” Brandon or the ship?
2. “But if Hoke can't close the sizeable gap between U-M and ‘that school from Ohio’ -- as he called it -- in a couple years, then Brandon's tenure will be fitted with a circus top hat.”
a). We were on the sea and the wayward ship with Brandon. Are we now in the Midwest?
b). What gap? The distance between Ann Arbor and Columbus cannot be ‘closed’, barring a seismic event
c). Did you mean that Brandon—steely nerved protector of the sacred Block M, wayward ship righter, geographical gap-closer(?) will have to wear a circus top hat? Or will his ‘tenure’ be fitted with the top hat?
“The two are forever joined at the hip now.”
1. Which two? The sacred Block M and the wayward ship? You cannot mean Brandon’s tenure and the circus top hat because, well, the hat is worn on the head, so joining the head to the hip—that won’t work. But perhaps you mean that Hoke will be joined either to a) Brandon’s tenure, or b) to a circus top hat, or c). a gap between U-M and “that school from Ohio”, or d) to some hip.
Perhaps you meant to say that if Hoke wins nine games, Brandon and he will be forever joined at the hip?
Or perhaps you meant to say that it’s not a matter of winning nine games—no, but that if Hoke cannot close the sizeable gap (?) between U-M and that school from Ohio, Brandon’s tenure will be fitted with a top hat.
Or perhaps you realized that what you wrote in the first paragraph was so confusing that you gave up and simply declared that “The two are forever joined at the hip now,” a remarkable assertion, to say the least.
II. In the following section, you shift suddenly from reporting what Brandon said to dramatizing what he thought and felt, as if you were an omniscient narrator. You’re not. Hint: Hemingway, no mean journalist, dramatized his fictional characters in his short stories and novels. When he reported for papers like the Kansas City Star, he reported facts, not opinions. Before making any corrections, you need to make your point of view consistent to yourself and to your readers. I’ve marked the section with “Reporter” and “Novelist” to help you revise this section. I’ve also underlined verbs and modifiers that you used to create the illusion that you are privy to Brandon’s thoughts. Please revise once you’ve determined your point of view.
[Reporter] Brandonlooked relieved.[Novelist] This was a humbling experience. [Reporter] As a former player, he resembled others [Novelist] caught in the spell of Michigan football being the end-all. He arrogantly went into The Process certain that the Michigan name and reputation would entrance all he pursued, but realized that, quite possibly, Harbaugh and Miles used Michigan to get more for themselves, whether from the NFL or a greater appreciation from the natives.
You should also correct the faulty parallelism in the final clause to read, “whether from the NFL or froma greater appreciation from the natives.” The double “from” is awkward but clear. However, “the natives” introduces additional confusion.
III. Your concluding paragraph sends the hip-joined twain over the cliff. Together, no less.
“But if he [Hoke] can't break through the unrecognizable despair that currently is Michigan football, the two joined at the hip will go sailing over the cliff together.”
1. Hoke will have a devilish time trying to “break through” an unrecognizable despair,” because he can’t break through it if he can’t recognize it. According to your sentence, that unrecognizable despair is Michigan football, posing another puzzle. Are you saying that he won’t be able to find Michigan football? He’s already found it; I watched his press conference in Ann Arbor, and many players attended. You were there yourself, repeatedly asking the same question.
2. I’ve already discussed the “the two joined at the hip”, above. I think that dispatching the two to “go sailing over the cliff together” adds additional confusion.
If you need additional help, please contact one of the editors at the Free Press. I’m sure they are familiar with your work and will be glad to help you with the revision.