half court press

Larry Ellison’s America’s Cup organization (we lovingly refer to the umbrella organizations as ACAlphabet) has only a short history to draw from, but we’re constantly surprised by their ability to counter almost every brilliant move with a big fumble. Let us give you a few examples: The stroke of fan-building genius that is the AC World Series would be brilliant but for the exhaustive venue demands that put the first two events in unquestionably small markets like Plymouth and Cascais. Ellison’s organization has worked tirelessly to create a series that would help maximize sponsorship opportunities for the team but, inexplicably, there is still no event scheduled between now and April, and it increasingly looks like there won’t be one, leaving teams out in the cold (or training out of vacant bases in Valencia) for five full months. The ACRM support/camera/VIP boat fleet is a purpose-built machine, allowing not only for ultra-efficient and environmentally more responsible support activities, yet thanks to a major legal fuckup, they can’t even use most of it in San Diego. AC’s Youtube alliance is inspired, paving the way for other sailing events to follow, yet one of the most rabid racing markets of all – New Zealand – has been locked out from watching the racing online. All in all, there’s a pattern of self-sabotage that goes beyond teething pains, and almost seems part of the ACAlphabet corporate culture.

So it was with a resigned sigh that we turned on Youtube to check out the first Press Conference in San Diego, only to find a great example of that dichotomy with the choice of hosts. On the left we had an embarrassment – the stuttering and bumbling and very uncomfortable Peter Isler. On the right, one of basketball (and sports broadcasting’s) most legendary characters: Bill Walton. The former must have been some kind of SDYC political football – we simply can’t find another reason that anyone who’s worked in real sports TV would hire him to talk on camera. The latter has an interest in seeing major sporting events succeed in Southern California (as part of a non-profit dedicated to that goal), but instead of using Walton as a mainstream media magnet and figurehead, producers relied on him to lead the discussion in a sport he knows little about, reading from a script that was clearly prepared at the last minute.

It’s nothing against Walton; he’s a hero to many of us for both his sporting history, and his induction into the Grateful Dead Hall of Honor probably means something to you hippies out there. But one wonders when ACAlphabet is going to stop taking a big hop backwards for every two steps they make to windward. Maybe it’s this week and their coverage of the ACWS? We’ll be watching. Hopefully we won’t have to sit through more stammering from ancient mariners, or another poorly scripted performances from a former ball player.

You can check out the entire Press Conference right here, and ACAlphabet have done an excellent job creating a complete guide and schedule to the San Diego event. Be sure to check this page later today for more updates from the water as the racing begins at 1300 Pacific/1700 Eastern/2200 GMT. And don’t forget to chat about everything AC on our AC Anarchy forum, sponsored by Inmarsat.