Ever on the lookout for opportunities to pander to her enablers, Diana Nyad wrote on Facebook a few months ago:
Oprah Winfrey has turned her television series SuperSoul Sunday into a podcast.
Podcasts are the platform du jour and Oprah, per usual, leads the pack. [May 31, 2018]
A brief history of podcasting may be in order:
- 2004: Journalist Ben Hammersley coins the word “podcast.”
- 2005: Apple adds podcasts to iTunes.
- 2016: Apple reports that listeners downloaded or streamed 10.5 billion episodes from its podcast apps. See “Apple’s podcasts just topped 50 billion….”
- 2017: Oprah launches Super Soul Conversations, a podcast that includes audio versions of her old video interviews, notably (for our purposes) the one that Nyad gave back in 2013.
Oprah may lead the pack in some areas, but podcasting is not one of them. The new incarnation of Nyad’s interview, however, prompted me to have another listen, and what a special listen it was. Hang onto your swim caps because, as Oprah says:
Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now. (:16)
Part 1: The Swim of Her Life
Thirty-one and Done
We begin with a slight variation on an ancient motif:
OPRAH: And then you didn’t do a stroke in the water for thirty-one years.
OPRAH: You were done.
NYAD: Done. Burnt out. Enough already. (5:50)
Usually, it’s thirty. Either way, it’s still a lie. See “No Escape.”
Back to the Box
You’re not going to believe this, but Diana finally said something true about the box jellyfish:
NYAD: The box jellyfish kills more people than [do] shark bites every year. You’re very lucky to live through it.
OPRAH: Good god! (15:23 )
According to the International Shark Attack File, sharks killed five people worldwide in 2017. The average is six per year. So, yes, box jellyfish kill more people than sharks do. But there are a lot of numbers between six and lucky-to-live-through-it.
As I’ve said before, Nyad was in little danger given her proximity to medical care. Yes, she felt like she was going to die, but most things that make us feel like we’re going to die—panic attacks, food poisoning, and listening to politicians, for instance—don’t actually kill us.
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
OPRAH: At the helm is Diana’s business partner and best friend, Bonnie Stoll. (17:22)
If the person running the XTREME DREAM operation is also your business partner, she might have a vested interest in making sure that you finished at all costs. Hmmm.
It’s All Good!
NYAD: You can see I have a suit [see clip], I have surgeon’s gloves, I got booties—all legal, you’re not allowed to wear neoprene. (19:10)
Clip from Super Soul Sunday, season 5, episode 501—“Oprah & Swimming Champion Diana Nyad: The Power of the Human Spirit.”
According to what rules is it “all legal”? The generally accepted rules of marathon swimming? Then, no, all that stuff’s not legal. How about the rules Nyad agreed to before the swim? No—she didn’t agree to any rules before the swim. Then how about the rules she made up as she went along? Yeah, those.
Saying everything was legal because she wasn’t wearing neoprene is like saying my dog is a monkey because she has a tail. Following one rule does not make it okay to ignore all the others.
Part 2: Find a Way
Can You Imagine?
NYAD: I deserve this. And our team deserves it. (8:05)
No, you don’t, and neither do they. If you lose $40,000 playing four hands of poker, do you deserve to win the 5th? No—you may just be bad at poker. You’re not entitled to something just because you try to get that thing too many times.
OPRAH: No sooner than you had come to shore that people started questioning your integrity.
Actually, people began questioning Nyad’s integrity at least 35 years before she shuffled ashore at Key West:
OPRAH: The haters came out, and I’m like, “People, my Lord, would you leave the woman alone? She just swam for 53 hours!” What did that feel like, though, having people say, you know—”
NYAD: It was a fraud?
OPRAH: It was a fraud.
NYAD: Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, can you imagine?
Well, yes I can imagine. Watch me.
Later, Nyad talks about The Call and the two types of people thereon: the baddies (i.e., one guy who asked hard questions) and the goodies (i.e., everybody else). The latter, according to Nyad…
…just wanted to know how many people were there, was the observers’ logs every minute, was there somebody observing every minute who wasn’t on my team that I wasn’t grabbing onto the boat, getting out on the boat, using flippers.
Let’s do a quick rundown of where we stand as of July 2018:
- We still don’t know how many people were there. Nyad says variously 30, 35, 40, and 44. I count 41.
- The observers’ logs were not “every minute.” They weren’t every half-hour or even every hour. There were gaps of up to six hours.
- According to her own logs, there was NOT someone observing every minute. See #2.
No one ever suspected Nyad of using flippers, though. Or a kickboard.
NYAD: I got many apology and respectful notes from that group of swimmers when it was over to say, ‘please forgive us for doubting, but we needed to ask these questions. It’s over, congratulations, it’s history.’ [Ed: No, she didn’t.]
NYAD: Yeah, so, I had to suffer through it, but I guess I had to.
OPRAH: You had to. But do you think we are in a culture where we put people on a pedestal, athletes on a pedestal, but also want to see them fall down.
NYAD: Yeah, absolutely. The bigger you are, the harder they want you to fall.
OPRAH: Absolutely, yeah.
Cue sarcasm. Sure, I question Diana Nyad’s veracity because I want to see her shoved off a pedestal, not because her cheating and her lying debases the sport I love and dishonors the truly honorable people who participate in that sport.
Champion of Something
Sentence completions, Oprah style:
OPRAH: My definition of a champion is…
NYAD: A champion does right. A champion has ethics and morals. And it’s not just about winning. There are so many people in sport who have won, and we can’t remember their names. But Billy Jean King? It doesn’t matter how many titles she won. It is that human being who led, who refused to let human rights be second and women’s rights be second to the money and the Wimbledon trophies held above.
In other words: “Talking about a genuine champion makes me seem like a really good human being.”
OPRAH: Do you see yourself as a champion.
NYAD: I do, I do. I, you know, I don’t want it to sound like hyperbole, I don’t want to be some huge ego, but I feel like a champion. (25:40)
You can’t believe much of what Nyad says, but there is one thing you can depend on: when she says that she doesn’t want to sound a certain way or that she doesn’t want to say or do a certain thing, she will sound that way—or say or do that thing—in the next moment or two. Trust me on this.
“Never to denigrate…”: a clip from the Platypus Institute’s NeuronFire podcast.