It's been only three days since the announcement that San Francisco has been chosen to host the 34th America's Cup, but already much has been made of how the bay is a 'natural amphitheater' for viewing sailing events.
What the heck is a 'natural amphitheater' anyway?
As far as I can tell, it's a term to describe San Francisco Bay that found its way into a press release from team Oracle a few months back and that has been repeated repeatedly by a lot of people who are too lazy to make up their own descriptive metaphors.
'Amphitheater' comes from two Greek words meaning 'on both sides' and 'place for viewing'. An ancient amphitheater looks a lot like what we'd call a stadium today.
Modern (sort of) stadium
But you can imagine the raised eyebrows there'd be in a roomful of marketing dudes writing a press release for Larry Ellison if someone suggested the next America's Cup was going to be sailed in "the big stadium" of San Francisco.
The marketing dudes must have been sitting around an impressive iroko table before lunch, getting hungrier and thirstier, staring at a whiteboard with the words 'big stadium' crossed out, and with everyone drumming their fingers on the table.
Then, some genius blurted it out - "Wait a minute, I've got it!"
"That's it! It's got flow. It's got grandeur. It's total bullshit."
It's roomfuls of thirsty admen that have given us all sorts of cool, meaningless phrases like that.
- Corinthian leather.
- Natural beechwood aging
- Tastes great, less filling
- If nature didn't, Warner's will.
(Maybe most of my readers are too young to remember that last one, but it's still one of my favorites. You could look it up)
At any rate, what's bothering me most about this is the huge number of container ships, tankers, tugboats, ferries, sightseeing boats, and other badass commercial traffic that always seems to be plowing right through the orchestra pit of our natural amphitheater.
I know that almost every time I want to pirouette from stage left to stage right, I have to alter course to avoid being mowed down by that badass traffic.
Maybe I should be crossing from Blackaller Buoy over to Angel Island via the mezzanine of our natural amphitheater.
This has been tossed off by many as a simple problem to solve, but what exactly are they going to do with this endless parade of freighters and tankers that needs to get from the Golden Gate over to Richmond or Oakland? Our natural amphitheater doesn't have a green room where they can wait for the better part of a day. We can't call up China and say, "Look, could you hold up on the refrigerators, iPads, and SpongeBob SquarePants dolls until next month?"
I say we do nothing at all. Let them all come.
If Larry wants this to be the America's Cup for the rest of us - the one that the public can actually get to see and connect with - then why not let it be racing the way the rest of us race? For what Midwinters or Big Boat series or Three Bridge Fiasco or Friday night beercan race is all commercial traffic stopped in our natural amphitheater?
If you have to plan the next upwind leg around your best guess of what the Mitsubishi Maru is going to do, then why shouldn't Russell Coutts?
How cool would it be to watch two monster high-tech cats splitting tacks around an 800-foot long supertanker doing 18 knots down the starboard layline?
Now that's what I'd call a natural amphitheater.