America’s Cup: The irresistible chemistry of a comeback
Ripostes are like a piece of brilliant art – as impossible to capture in a string of words as it is to take your eyes off the canvas. Sport is an extension of life in more ways than one. At its purest, it can make the hair stand on end even as a rapturous chill courses through the spine. If miracles alone were enough to be anointed saintly, sport would have to be extolled by the Pope at insanely regular intervals.
The experience of a nearly vanquished competitor somehow resuscitating the body and soul to mount a stirring counter attack is one of the many irresistible elixirs dripping from an overflowing pot of sport. The implausible effort of the Oracle team in the America’s Cup this week has turned the spotlight once again on this rarefied form of art in sport.
If you haven’t already read, heard or felt the gravity of their effort – here is the gist of the story. A group of sailors, docked two points even before they could get warmed up in their fancy boat, fell behind 1-8 in a best of seventeen race regatta in San Francisco. With the biggest prize in Yachting at stake, the 11 men from Oracle Team USA fought back one race at a time to write an improbable story.
As we watched them claw their way back from the brink of defeat, it was a mind numbing journey that left us sinfully satiated. After racing their catamaran to the brink of victory, the Emirates Team New Zealand blokes somehow conspired against themselves to succumb at the altar of a determined exhibition of tenacity from their indomitable opponents.
The “Auld Mug” was literally hanging on the challenger’s sail. The New Zealanders needed just one race victory to snatch the most coveted trophy from the defenders. Like cornered cats, the Oracle team screwed their eyes and discovered the power of the moment, focusing one mile at a time to conjure a magical run of performances that saw them take race after race.
Just as a spectacle, it is difficult to argue with the riveting power of a competitor excavating out of a dump hole just at the moment when the sand is about to be shovelled to complete the burial. There have been several instances over the years where the pathos of a stirring effort transcends sport and turns into a celebration of the human spirit.
As difficult as it is decode the wiring of a seemingly impossible turnaround, there could be various shades to the effort based on context, intensity of desire, cultural undercurrents and a myriad other inexplicable factors that can ignite a rousing revival from a state of near death.
The lucky masses that witnessed the 3-2 triumph of West Germany over the “mighty Magyars” from Hungary in the 1954 world cup were not just witnessing a football final, but the liberation of a nation from the burden of its gory past. Having received an 8-3 drubbing against Hungary in the group stages, barely anyone gave the Germans a chance against Ferenc Puskas and his men. But then those determined men narrated the tale that has come to be known as ‘the miracle of Berne.’
World War II and Adolf Hitler were a still a raw memory and this was in the heart of Europe. When the Hungarians raced away to a 2-0 lead inside eight minutes of the final, there was neither empathy nor hope for the maligned Germans. Inspired by their duty to the nation, Helmut Rahn and Max Morlock lifted the underdogs to score the three goals needed to unfetter the Germans from a collective sense of remorse.