All the bickering has caused America's Cup to lose steam 

The America's Cup has been marred with controversy and whining almost from the start. - ERIC RISBERG/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Eric Risberg/AP file photo
  • The America's Cup has been marred with controversy and whining almost from the start.

After two years of hype and promises, the 34th America's Cup will finally get underway on Saturday with Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand competing for the oldest trophy in sports.

But with the A's locked in a pennant race, the 49ers kicking off the 2013 season against the Green Bay Packers and both Cal and Stanford hosting home football games, does anyone really care?

So far, the Summer of Racing has produced shameful scandals and adolescent bickering without riveting competition and the Tomfoolerly is spilling over into the finals with Oracle receiving a two-point penalty this week for cheating in America's Cup World Series events last year.

Sailing enthusiasts say the history of the America's Cup is littered with these kind of shenanigans — spying, legal wrangling, jockeying over rules — which is why this regatta is better suited for someone else's shores.

After two months of "racing," it's safe to say that the culture of sailing is out of whack with the culture of American sports. Exhibit A: Ruddergate.

If you were too absorbed in the Giants' demise during the month of July to follow along, allow me to refresh your memory. Regatta director Iain Murray recommended larger rudder elevators — little winglets that allow 72-foot catamarans to foil — after the capsizing of Artemis Racing's boat in May. Luna Rossa Challenge and New Zealand protested the decision, asserting that it gave Oracle a competitive advantage and the Italian boat even boycotted a race.

Murray said he'd ask the Coast Guard to revoke the regatta's permit if the international jury didn't rule in his favor and, throughout, CEO Stephen Barclay assured the world that the show would go on. Childish games are as natural to sailing as wind and water.

The international jury eventually sided with the Italians and the Kiwis and Murray, not surprisingly, backed off on his threat to pull down the tent. New Zealand 1, Oracle 0.

The Kiwis, of course, won another point, actually two, this week when the jury penalized the Americans for corking their bat during the warmup regatta.

Here's the problem: In this country, we like our competitions to be decided on the field, not in the courtroom. We like hard-fought battles, wars of attrition and, yes, cliches about combat, too.

Americans don't like empty threats, cry babies or diving, which is a Texas-sized reason why soccer is still a niche sport in the States.

Take a minute to consider some of the guys you root for here in the Bay Area. Justin Smith played three playoff games with a torn tricep muscle in January. Have you ever heard him whining about rules?

Stephen Curry was harassed by the Denver Nuggets throughout the first-round of the NBA playoffs last spring. Did he threaten to sit out until the refs started calling more fouls?

Of course, we still have cheaters in U.S. sports, but when we catch them, we don't accept it as part of the tradition. We kick 'em off the team and send 'em to Toronto (unless we're the A's).

At this point, the "home team" appears to be the underdog, needing two extra points to successfully defend the 162-year-old trophy. This is the best development yet because if Oracle loses, it guarantees that the next America's Cup will be held in someone else's waters.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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