Oracle Team USA has accomplished the impossible.
No, not winning the America's Cup. We all knew Larry Ellison's space-age catamaran and bionic crew could do that. What's stunning is that they managed to turn themselves into come-from-behind underdogs -- trailing New Zealand 8-1 at one point -- and forced Americans to actually root for them, packing the San Francisco piers in a cheering frenzy Wednesday in spite of themselves.
The excited fans on the shore likely knew that the Cup win by Oracle's team would have been accomplished a day or two earlier and not near as dramatically had the team not been caught cheating before the finals even began. They were penalized two points at the outset, which forced them to win two more races than would have otherwise been necessary.
But, hey, we Americans like winners who sport our flag, even if the majority of them actually come from New Zealand. Personality is just that, personality. And Larry Ellison's personality is that of being a winner at everything he does.
With his monster house, personal jet and general reputation for, oh, being Larry, Ellison is no warm and fuzzy guy. But he has his moments, and now he has given the Bay Area an incredibly exciting America's Cup.
Two of them, we hope, assuming he chooses to bring the next Cup defense back here -- a bonus that will substantially increase the city's return on the initial investments, which didn't prove as lucrative as Ellison and others had led the public to expect.
At least in the Bay Area, the race has awakened a whole new genre of sports fan -- people who once yawned at the idea of sailing as a serious athletic event. The boats New Zealand and Oracle raced for the Cup bear as much resemblance to the average sloop as the NFL does to Pop Warner, but the combination of physical strength and ability to outwit savvy opponents and forces of nature -- the wind, the currents -- needed to sail the open water differs only by degree. We imagine people will watch the boats on the Bay on sunny weekends with different eyes from now on.
The tragic death in May of a British sailor with the Sweden-based Artemis Racing team cast a pall over the Cup, a reminder that even for the most fit and best prepared, water can be unforgiving.
The New Zealand team attracted many fans along the way, captivated by the indomitable spirit typical of the island nation, whose entire population is less than the Bay Area's.
But you have to hand it to Team USA. Those guys totally rocked.
Thanks, Larry. Really.