OPINION: I've been trying to work out why New Zealanders have been so swept up in the America's Cup over the past month. To be honest, it's not easy.
It's not as if thousands of people in Invercargill or Cambridge or Waitara or Blenheim desperately follow the fortunes of our sailors in their various endeavours.
New Zealand has always done well in yachting - look at our record at the Olympics and in great sailing adventures such as the round the world race.
But though the country is surrounded by water and some people sail, far more don't.
Rugby union, football, cricket, netball and rugby league have a natural following. Each sport has legions of armchair fans. Yachting normally doesn't, but this America's Cup campaign is different. The media has hyped it up massively. TV news presenters have been based in San Francisco. With the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, they have rather bizarrely reported on the situation in Syria, the legal duel of Adam Parore and Sally Ridge and John Key's brush with British royalty.
Newspapers have splashed the America's Cup on their front pages. Radio and television have led each bulletin with breathless snippets from San Francisco.
It's all been delivered in a rather smug we're-taking-on-the-world-and-winning-again manner.
We aren't, of course. Only four teams entered the 2013 America's Cup contest. The Swedes turned up late and, like the Italians, were second rate. Only the New Zealand and American franchises were serious contenders.
Whole continents - Asia, Africa, South America - were absent. Except for New Zealand, no country really cares about the America's Cup. There were New Zealanders in all four teams in San Francisco.
Among the fallacies about the America's Cup is that because it's so old, dating back to 1851, it must be a great event. For 130 years it was a rubbish sports contest, totally skewed in favour of the defender, which inevitably won.
Challenging boats had to be built in the country of origin, from material sourced in that country, then sailed across oceans to the United States, and then engage in a match racing series. It was farcical.
When Australia II won brilliantly in 1983, the cup finally began to have meaning. For the next two decades there were lots of challengers, some mounted along nationalistic lines, but most mere hobbies for rich men (Michael Fay, Larry Ellison, Bill Koch, Ernesto Bertarelli, Torbjorn Tornqvist etc).
From 1987 until the early 2000s, the America's Cup drew genuine world interest. It was never going to outshine the Olympics, or the Football World Cup, but there was a global spread of challenges.
Then the lawyers got involved, billionaires began bickering in court and the actual sports contest lost its way.
New Zealand has generally been exempt from this childish behaviour. True there was Fay's notorious Big Boat challenge in 1988, when he thought he was being really clever but got outflanked by Dennis Conner's San Diego team. But generally we've played the game pretty well, certainly better than some others.
The buildup to this latest America's Cup final was pitiful - protracted legal manoeuvres, boats sailing around the course alone, lopsided racing, the preposterous deducting of points from Oracle before the final because of something that happened many weeks earlier.
The final series has been just what New Zealanders wanted. Team New Zealand started brilliantly, leading 8-1. But Oracle has fought back to close the gap to 8-6. It's still anyone's cup.
I salute Grant Dalton and his team. They've mounted a superb campaign. They have a great boat, which is most of the battle in yachting, and sailed brilliantly. Only Oracle has been better in the past five races.
But I feel no ownership if Team New Zealand win. It's not a New Zealand team, as the All Blacks, the All Whites and the Silver Ferns are. This is a private campaign, though made up predominantly of New Zealanders.
Apparently the racing has been breathlessly exciting. I have watched and sometimes when the boats get close there are moments of tension, but much of the time it is one boat way ahead of the other.
Commentators go on endlessly about halyards, starboard and port, luffing, jibing, mizzens, and, a new one on me, code zero.
There is little pretence of objectivity. Martin Tasker on TV One sounds glum, almost suicidal, whenever something goes wrong for the Kiwis. The commentators, with the notable exception of Peter Montgomery on radio, make minimal attempts to explain what such terms mean. So we are left watching or listening, not really understanding the nuances, but delighted with the racing, because it is such a Major World Event.
Increasing numbers of New Zealanders wait for the win to clinch the cup, before getting stuck into their work knowing we've taken on and beaten the world against the odds. They know that because that's the message the media has hammered home. Believe it if you want.
- © Fairfax NZ News