Until the final, winner-take-all race, the America’s Cup battle between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand on San Francisco Bay hardly registered with American sports fans.
But on Wednesday, Oracle completed a historic comeback that, everyone suddenly realized, ranks among the most stunning in U.S. sports competition. It might not be the Miracle on Ice or the New York Jets winning the Super Bowl or even the 2004 Boston Red Sox reversing the curse, but, at least for a day or two, it’s in the top-10 conversation. Here’s why:
1) Oracle nearly lost it all on the first leg of the final race — holy Schilling’s bloody sock — then the crew pulled it together and pulled away.
2) One side was elated by the win, the other deflated, demoralized, gutted. Skipper Jimmy Spithill (who certainly has one of the top 10 sports names of all time) ranked it as the greatest upset ever; New Zealand’s prime minister called it “gut-wrenching.” A wrenched gut for the vanquished is key.
3) One side looks unbeatable and/or takes a ridiculous lead. That was Team New Zealand until, as The Post’s Angus Phillips wrote, “everything the boys from Down Under had working for them went upside down.” At some point, body language changes, momentum swings and the only question is whether the unbeatable team can run out the clock.
4) The victory may change the sport. “The 34th America’s Cup will be remembered as a transformative affair,” Al Saracevic wrote on SFgate.com, “changing the face and nature of a competition that dates back to 1851. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see single-hull America’s Cup racing on the open seas again. Despite a steady tide of criticism throughout the event, [Oracle owner/uber-rich guy Larry] Ellison managed to reinvent the sport he loves, bringing it nearer to shore and closer to the embrace of a mass audience. That was his intention from the start – to make the America’s Cup a compelling, accessible competition. Made for TV. NASCAR on the water.”
5) That whole rooster-one-day/feather-duster-the-next thing. Take it from Jimmy Spithill, there’s “absolutely no doubt” which is better…no matter where and for how long the comeback ranks among the greatest.