Back in 1986, Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner allowed a routine grounder to trickle through his legs in Game 6 of the World Series, enabling the New York Mets' Ray Knight to dance home -- and extend Boston's reign of futility into the next century.
With Oracle Team USA having ripped off eight consecutive victories in the America's Cup, moments ago yanking the prize away from hapless Emirates Team New Zealand, the Kiwis have been compared to a nation of Bill Buckners.
But, truthfully, it's far worse than that.
A sailing-mad nation -- which poured $30.1 million in government money into yachting in hopes of hosting the next cup -- will have to live with the ignominy of pissing away the prize in one of the greatest of all comebacks (or greatest of all choke-jobs, depending on your point of view).
Either way, there is no joy in Mudville.
New Zealand's collective memory doesn't include a conquering army marching through the Kiwi version of the Arc de Triomphe. If you're looking for silver linings at this time, well, there you go.As we have written, many times,
For a heartbroken nation, it probably doesn't mean so much (which just goes to show how much it really means).
And yet, congratulations are in order. On the water, what Oracle Team USA did was astounding. This was high drama and a demonstration of extreme tenacity. It's the best sports has to offer. This is why we watch sports.
But the America's Cup, especially here in San Francisco, is more than a sport.
and most recently in today's cover story, one must separate the on-the-water, televised spectacle of yacht racing with the painful and oft-insidious lead-up to this event.
The negotiations between Team Ellison and the city in which he's worn out his welcome will surely be enthralling. The economic reports -- and boosterism -- coming in the wake of a miracle comeback that prolonged the event (and maximized its earning potential) will be the same.
But, again, that's a matter for tomorrow.
Today, Oracle deserves the acknowledgement for achieving the apparently-not-impossible. Yes, many of the seven-plus races that were blown out by strong winds would all but certainly have been won by New Zealand, which was indomitable in the early going. Yes, New Zealand was leading three races which were canceled due to wind limits. Yes, New Zealand was 1.5 kilometers -- 1.5 kilometers
-- ahead on Friday in a race that was nixed after neither team could finish within the time limit.
It's better to be lucky than good. But Oracle was both. And much more.
So, congratulations today. Tomorrow we start the harder math. The ill-will based on years of bare-knuckles negotiating and broken promises will be tough to quantify.
God help the Kiwis. There's no talking a sports fan -- let alone a nation of them -- out of a depression like this (your humble narrator failed in making France or its local citizens feel any better after the World Cup finals in '06).
But Larry Ellison didn't march through the Arc de Kiwi. In fact, he paid for it. Three of the four boats on display were primarily built in New Zealand; the Kiwis lost out big on their bet to host the next regatta, but their maritime and tech industries have already benefited.
Bill Buckner, too, has gone on to lead a healthy life. So will everyone feeling the pain in New Zealand.
But not today. Alas. Not today.