I don’t know if yachting was ever ‘great’. Maybe it was for the Aussies when they won in 1983, or for our boys in 1995 and again in 1999. But every four years, I am obliged by my duty as a Kiwi to check in and support the latest iteration of Emirates-Toyota-Nespresso-Omega-Steinlager Team New Zealand. Whether this fulfills some sort of benign nationalistic sentiment, or just the nostalgia of hearing Peter Montgomery’s voice again, I’m not really sure.
I loathe the experience much less now than what I once did. Nowadays the boats are actually fast, they literally fly above the water and the lead can frequently change hands. This means I don’t need to expend much energy exhibiting faux support for a sport I don’t really understand. And after 20 odd minutes, I can absorb the result and start considering which Maccas breakfast bagel I’d like to start the day with. After All, the golden arches of a supposedly ‘culture-less’ America are a pretty satisfying way to celebrate our successes over Uncle Sam.
Back when I was a teenager, the America’s Cup was different. There were two boats that would move to opposite ends of a playing circuit. They would awkwardly eyeball each other, moving closer and then further away again. The process would repeat for a few painful hours as they sailed up and down the same space a few times. Eventually a gun would go off signalling an end to proceedings and the facade of a ‘good day’s racing’ would be over. For that reason watching the America’s Cup in the 1990’s was eerily similar to the church sanctioned dances I was allowed to attend around that time – lots of jibing and not a lot of action.
So, we should thank Oracle – because they have made a yachting competition mildly interesting. But we won’t because it’s Oracle. Ellison, Coutts, and Spithill may as well be the incarnation of Hades’ underworld. It is a characterisation all too willingly portrayed by our media; a ‘rich’ American, a ‘sellout’ Kiwi and an ‘arrogant’ Australian. Alas, the classic Kiwi pastime – loosely categorising our not-even-bro adversaries on the basis of some overly generalised personality trait. Tell me, why is it is that the Aussie and American yachting professionals that joined our team are not subject to the same vitriol from the New Zealand media? Hurr Durr, New Zealand *waves flag*. It seems that wherever possible, Americans especially should be condemned.
For what though? It appears through talking to my fellow countrymen that the current gripe is that these pesky Americans are coming to our shores and spending shitloads of money. Oh, how dare they! Frankly, it is this boneheaded logic that continues to dominate the talking points of middle class New Zealand, a small town-style insecurity. Once upon time it was not that they were ‘rich’ but that they were ‘dumb’, remember that? Apparently, most Americans couldn’t even locate where New Zealand was on a map – we were outraged. Then the LOTR series came along, as well as Google and Lorde, and all of a sudden we got cool.
Sorry, I meant – they got cool.
See, Americans learned where to find New Zealand – while we stood, hands on hips. Which I find odd because the average Kiwi still cannot point to Georgia on a map. You know, that state which is twice our size. The place that has hosted a modern Olympics and was the birthplace of Julia Roberts, Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King? Yeah, that place.
We also offer scant acknowledgement of the millions of dollars Oracle and other syndicates have spent building yachts in New Zealand. Or that they have hired New Zealanders to customise, test, race and repair them. Instead, many Kiwis will continue to bemoan the entire event, wherever it takes place. “How could one extol such a waste of taxpayers’ money?” they ask. Never mind that our mere participation in such events is an enviable marketing platform for our booming tourism sector. Heck, that’s not even counting if we actually win the damn thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I do hope we win next week. I hope we kick Oracle’s ass. Watching Spithill eat his own smug face would make for great TV, heck I might even watch it. But if we lose I’m not going to throw a tantrum, I am not going to whinge that the other side bent the rules to suit them. Because, like much of the angst Kiwis have towards everything that is American, it could be deemed to be just a little bit too hypocritical.
TL;DR? Popularity is best served with a side of humility. Lets support our yachting team and everyone else that supports our country.