For some reason, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping this past week. So when 10:00 P.M. rolls around, when I’m normally asleep, I found myself channel-surfing, looking for something on TV that was interesting but not too interesting…something to put myself to sleep by. Where is Law and Order: The Next Generation when you need it?
That’s how I happened upon Oprah. Normally, if I’m watching Oprah (or golf) on TV, you can assume that the world will shortly come to an end. But in this case, she was interviewing Nick Schuyler, who has written a book called Not Without Hope.
You may recall this incident, where three NFL players died on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Nick was the only one of the four–and the only one who was not in the NFL–who survived.
Here is the setting: these four friends went out fishing, putting out in a 21-foot boat from Clearwater, Florida. Bad weather was expected, but it hadn’t yet arrived, so they thought they had time. Count that as Mistake Number One. But it gets worse. As the weather continued to deteriorate, they decided to call it quits and then discovered that the anchor was stuck. So instead of cutting the line to the anchor, they gunned the engine. Hello…this is a physics problem. The anchor was stronger than the 21-foot boat, and the boat flipped.
Oprah: Why did you do that?
Nick: I don’t know. It had happened before and we did cut the line, but this time, I guess we didn’t want to spend the $200 for a new anchor.
To further set the scene: they were 70 miles from shore. They had no ship-to-shore radio. They were not wearing life jackets. No one really knew where they were going. When it first happened, they dove under the boat and came up with the life jackets.
His account is the horror of all horrors. The first to die was Marquis Cooper, who owned the boat. He died of hypothermia. Next was Corey Smith, who took off his life jacket and dove into the water, never to surface again. That too was a result of hypothermia, but I guess technically he died of drowning. Finally the third man, Will Wheatley, died as well. All this only took 48 hours.
Here’s the part that got me, as if the whole incident weren’t bad enough: Marquis Cooper’s wife says that she doesn’t believe Nick Schuyler is telling the truth. She wants him to at least tell her what Marquis’s last words were. She says Marquis loved her and their daughter so much, that she can’t believe his last words weren’t about them. What part of delerium do you not get? I was just stunned. Nick is being punished for living…as if he isn’t doing that to himself already.
The story is the very essence of Greek tragedy, especially including the part about hubris. These were big, strong, strapping guys in their twenties. Nothing like a tiny little ocean could stand in their way.