Opinion: What is the point of celebrating the arrival of TNZ?

By Anendra Singh

Richie McCaw and Dean Barker.
Richie McCaw and Dean Barker.

Does anyone realise how easily Dean Barker and Richie McCaw could have been trading places in the history of New Zealand?

Had that penalty kick failed to sail between the two sticks against France in the final of the Rugby World Cup two years ago, McCaw could easily have worn the tag of "Captain Pathetic".

Just one lousy point elevated McCaw's status to "Captain Fantastic" in the 8-7 victory at Eden Park, Auckland.

Frankly I prefer to believe the bigger point in that scenario came down to pure, undiluted luck, thanks to Stephen "Beaver" Donald.

Now juxtapose that with Barker's lot at the San Francisco Harbour during the America's Cup Challenge last month.

The Emirates Team New Zealand skipper and his crew just couldn't steer the catamaran first over the line one more lousy time, despite a handicap start over the Yanks.

Had Team NZ prevailed and McCaw stumbled, there would have been another round of debate on whether Barker should be knighted and offshore foreman Grant Dalton should replace Sir Edmund Hillary on the humble $5 note.

The line between agony and ecstasy is indeed fine.

A country coming out of mourning for its elite rugby ambassadors would have rejoiced uncontrollably in the cool cat's success on water.

Sure, it's not the same thing as excelling in the country's No 1 sport but, still the same, an opportune time to rescue the nation from a sombre mood.

Dare I say it, had McCaw's campaign failed, he would have lost the mantle of captaincy and King Graham Henry would have been offered a movie role titled, "To Sir without Love".

So why has Barker received a televised welcome ceremony after failing to return home with the silverware?

I hate to think what the Government would have done had Team NZ won.

It was without doubt a mammoth effort against Oracle and its tycoon owner, Larry Ellison.

Despite going down everywhere else in the world as one of sport's biggest chokers, it's fair to say any suggestions of heckling Barker and his men on returning home would have been unfair.

In fact, it seems the country is embarking on a prolonged sailing guilt trip.

With the wind knocked out of their sails, Team NZ were last night accorded a warm official welcome along the Auckland waterfornt.

"While you didn't achieve everything you set out to, you did win the hearts of this nation," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told yachting lovers.

Joyce's acknowledgement extended to lauding Team NZ for capturing the mood of the United States as well.

Hey, the Kiwi sailors have done what government-appointed ambassadors probably would have struggled to achieve in a three-week diplomatic visit.

What is unsettling, though, is the speed with which Joyce assured the Team NZ faithful of the Government's intention to support another challenge in four years.

I'm not so sure the "country" is on the same song sheet here with the Government.

For starters, Barker has had three unsuccessful attempts in trying to wrest the Auld Mug from the holders.

A plea on TV that he wants another crack is the sound of a desperate man.

All Blacks coach Henry came under intense scrutiny when he asked for another crack before he delivered the Webb Ellis Trophy, in his third attempt, by the skin of his teeth.

How does Barker come into play again?

Dalton had already declared he was going to step down.

Sir Russell Coutts, the mastermind behind Oracle's win, is reportedly returning home and keen to help his country again to claim the America's Cup.

If technology is what it took for Team USA to retain the cup against massive odds then how does Barker fit into the new equation.

Does that mean that anyone with a modicum of sailing nous should be able to steer the Black Boat across the line with the help of high-tech gadgets?

No doubt Ellison's Greenback dialect spoke volumes but the big question is will Team New Zealand become fluent in that language in trying to deliver the goods?

The economics of Team NZ's aquatic exercise costing roughly $8 a person doesn't make sense.

After three failed attempts the cost must be phenomenal.

Furthermore, the more accurate assessment of cost to New Zealand should come down to dividing the total cost of the campaign by the number of "economically productive" individuals in the country.

This type of spontaneous spending fails to epitomise what a Kiwi sailor stands for.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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