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Metaphor madness - Tom Purcell

"Now that I've had a chance to think about it, I probably could have used a different metaphor."

"This is going to be good. Please explain."

"I've been coaching our high school's basketball team for a long time. We don't have the most talented kids, but we have the most heart. I've developed quite a knack for firing them up before big games."

"Firing up?"

"We were about to play our archenemy in our biggest game of the year -- but our kids wouldn't get the lead out. They should have been warming up, but instead sat around, shooting the breeze."

"That's no good."

"I understood why, though. They were still shellshocked over the loss we suffered a few days before. That game was murder."

"Shellshocked! Murder!"

"Well, they figured I was going to console them, but I came at them with both barrels blazing. I told them point-blank that they were at fault for the loss. They were not prepared and went off -"

"Half-cocked?"

"That's right. I called out my guard for having an itchy trigger finger -- he'd rather shoot than pass and he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a bazooka."

"Oh, my goodness."

"Well, after I shamed them a while, I figured it was time to start building them back up. I told them we're bloody but unbowed. Then I threw down the gauntlet. I told them it was no time to retreat; it was time to -"

"Reload?"

"That's right. We needed to bite the bullet, after all. We had a real pitched battle ahead of us. Our opposition had a lot of weapons. If we had any hope of beating them, we had to draw first blood."

"How did the game go?"

"Son of a gun if we didn't annihilate our archenemy! We started slow in the first period, but our kids stuck to their guns. The momentum shifted our way. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. But that's when my metaphors got me into trouble."

"Trouble?"

"I assembled our kids after the game. I praised them for their excellent play. I told them the rest of the season was up to them -- it was a shot in the dark, but if we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot, we might make the playoffs."

"And that got you in trouble?"

"One kid's father overheard my speech. He's had me in his sights all year and finally had a clear shot. He complained to the school that my metaphors were vitriolic. He complained to the police that I was inciting violence. I was suspended as a coach and the cops may press charges."

"In these highly sensitive times, it might be a good idea to choose your metaphors more carefully."

"That may be true. Nobody ever accused me of being a great orator or choosing the best metaphors. Still, they're just metaphors. But apparently weak-minded people think we're too stupid to understand what metaphors really mean? Really? Have you ever seen anyone shoot fish in a barrel?"

"A fair point."

"Everything is backward, if you ask me. In the process of trying to attribute rational, political motives to a crazy man, people in the media and political arena make themselves look, well, crazy. Now they're afraid to use such metaphors at all. They're missing the target. They need to take more careful aim."

"You can't help yourself with the metaphors, can you?"

"Not by a long shot."

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.