train wreck

Anarchist Moonduster delivered this outstanding piece of America’s Cup perspective. He couldn’t be more accurate.

trainwreckThere are two key factors involved plus two quirks of culture that have conspired to give us what we see today.

The first factor is over specialization, a quirk of evolution in which weird twists and turns lead to frailty and inevitable extinction. Across the entire spectrum of skills developed by AC teams, we see a constant withering of the sizes, and increase in the specialization, a concentration of wealth and a decrease in return. This is as true of the leadership, the marketing and the design as it is for the sailors themselves.

The second factor is apathy. Sailing has never been a mass appeal sport and there are very few who are actually passionate about sailing. Frankly, we’ve been worn down by the antics of the overspecialized – we just don’t appreciate the preening, posturing and pandering they feel is necessary to differentiate themselves. We’ve pleaded, cajoled, litigated and editorialized, but they’ve worn us down and we frankly no longer give a damn.

But over specialization and apathy don’t explain the current AC. Were these the only forces at work, the thing would simply cease to exist. It turns out there are two additional things to consider – the obsessed and the uninformed.

There are pursuits in which image draws more followers than skill; these followers are the obsessed. And interestingly, the uninformed are easily influenced by the obsessed to join in and watch the spectacle. Examples of this phenomena include Elvis, who sold out concerts long after his abilities as a musician were gone. Those fans were clinging to an image, watching a train wreck and never knew or appreciated the musicianship. Another classic example is the Ali vs. Berbick fight – something no fan of boxing could ever watch. The combination of the obsessed and the uninformed explain phenomena like Nascar, although beer helps, too.

In sailing, we see obsession, too. Stingray (a prolific AC Anarchy poster – ed.) is a fine example of an obsessed follower as opposed to a knowledgeable, interested party. And those obsessed do manage to draw an uniformed crowd along to watch the spectacle. And this is what we see in the AC today. The obsessed have drawn in the uninformed to watch the overspecialized conduct a train wreck.

Jump in the discussion here.