This trophy once represented the very pinnacle of American pride, ingenuity, and sportsmanship — the America’s Cup sailboat race. At one time, it represented the longest winning streak in the history of all sports, as it was successfully defended by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) for 126-years — from 1857 to 1983.
Back when American naval design was undisputed, this cup was never seen in public. Instead, it was kept under lock-and-key by the NYYC, and only brought out briefly to be seen from a distance by huge crowds at the end of each successful sailboat race defense. That all changed when the Cup was won by the Australians in 1983, and subsequently changed hands several times since then. When the Australians won the Cup, it was made available for public viewing, and the lines of enthusiastic fans were unbelievably long. But with each new change of hands, the lines to view it have gotten shorter and shorter.
And this time? I went armed with my camera, as this was a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. I had seen the Australian boats arrive in New London, Connecticut, back in 1974… and had been a devoted hard-core fan ever since. I had never seen the Cup, and was bracing for a crush of people and limited opportunity to actually see it on this occasion.
Instead, I found no crowds at all.
In fact — except for two bored-looking security guards — I was the only person there at the time I took this photo. And even worse? The Cup was outside. Displayed on an asphalt parking lot. Under a cheap tent. Squeezed into a forgotten corner of the boat show. Highlighted as an advertisement for some cars that were arranged around it.
I was totally shocked by what I saw and by how far the Cup had fallen in the eye of the public.