Some analogies are dangerous

Sorry to all the NS readers for the long hiatus.  I'll be doing my best to blog more often, certainly over the summer.

Vanderbilt's head football coach, James Franklin, has had a pretty good run.  He took Vandy to a bowl game this last postseason, and he's got a good recruiting class coming in.  He also, as it turns out, shares a resemblance to me (or me to him), as I've been confused with him around Nashville more often than I'd like to admit.  (I wonder if he can say the same about me — though I doubt it, as I am a good 6 inches shorter than he is.)

He was recently gave an interview with a curious piece of analogical reasoning:

I’ve been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant coach until I’ve seen his wife. If she looks the part, and she’s a D-1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That’s part of the deal.

The analogy runs: wooing a woman is like recruiting a football star.  The better-looking the woman, the more competition and so the better you must be at social manouvering to successfully woo her.  The same goes for high-school recruits.  The better the recruit, the more competition and so the better you must be at getting them to like you if you are to get them to come to your school.  Here's Franklin running with the argument:

There’s a very strong correlation between having the confidence, going up and talking to a woman, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being fun and articulate, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him.

Both jobs, the argument goes, require a special skill — the schmooze — and so if we can see that you're good at one, we can reasonably expect you to be good at the other. 

Franklin has since apologized on Twitter for his comments, saying they were supposed to be humorous, but "fell a few yds short".  All fine politically to apologize — he did describe another coach's wife as a "D-1 recruit", which sounds exceedingly misogynistic.  And weird, isn't it?  Seriously — can you imagine the on-campus interview dinner?  Franklin getting a long hard look at your wife over the table? Ew. He should apologize for all that.  In fact, I think considerably less of him for saying it, and the apology is the only thing that keeps me from being totally disgusted with the guy.  Oh, and he also should apologize for part of his apology — "just kidding" isn't much of an apology. But was the argument any good?  Is there really a correlation between being able to marry a beautiful woman and having the social skills recruit high school football players? 

Here's the best case I can make for it.  I remember the football stars I knew in high school.  They were pretty high on themselves, and were suspicious of everyone else who tried to hang with them — always on the lookout for hangers-on and such.  Being able to break into their clique would be a very, very difficult proposition.  I suspect trophy-wife-types have the same characteristics, and being able to get close enough to one to even have a real conversation must take some real social skill and determination.  Again, similar skill sets.

But here's where the analogy may start to break down.  First, with the trophy wives.  One thing may attract a beautiful wife may not be social skill, but looks.  That is, I don't think the most socially skilled people date the best looking people, but rather look for other socially skilled people.  And beautiful people look for other beautiful people.  I'd think the best thing that having a "D-1 recruit" wife predicts is whether you are good looking, too.  Not whether you're charming.  Second, with the recruits.  I'm not yet convinced that the ability of an assistant coach to talk to pretty girls yields the skill to talk to football stars.  In fact, again, I'd bet that the better determining factor in whether you can talk to a football star is whether you, yourself, were a football star or know many greater stars.  That is, I'd bet that having been an All-American guard for Nebraska gets you more cred with highschool football players than having a hot wife.  At least for the sake of recruiting. 

Now, James Franklin knows better than me about this.  He's around pretty women and football stars all the time.  But me?  I just hang with my smokin' hot wife and have only a few interactions with football players in my courses.  They like logic class OK, but I never have to recruit them, as it's a requirement at Vandy.  Maybe also should be for the coaches.

Nothing to fear, they’re nihilists

"Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it was an ethos."  That was Walter Sobchek of the Big Lebowski.  One finds a similar thought in a recent discussion:*

Say what you will about the prosperity gospel and the cult of the God Within and the other theologies I criticize in Bad Religion, but at least they have a metaphysically coherent picture of the universe to justify their claims. Whereas much of today’s liberalism expects me to respect its moral fervor even as it denies the revelation that once justified that fervor in the first place. It insists that it is a purely secular and scientific enterprise even as it grounds its politics in metaphysical claims.

That's Ross Douthat, New York Times' pious columnist.  For a discussion of the Euthyphro Problem-denying angles to this, see John Holbo at Crooked Timber (my source for the passage above). 

My quibble would be that "secular" and "scientific" enterprises cannot have "methaphysical" claims.  Seems that insofar as they make claims about what sorts of things are real, or not, they do.

*edited this sentence to make it clear I'm not going Godwin on Douthat.