Amazing-er Race

Amazing-er Race September 9, 2022

Image: Netflix

For the final (ever?) installment of Netflix’s series Untold, we get a peek into the world of competitive yacht racing. So expect “The Race of the Century” to be about a sport aimed at a specific demographic (and one which I am not a part of).

You should also expect it to be a quaint little story which other reviewers have pointed out is both charming and not as fast-paced as the other episodes in the series. I think I agree with both of those points, and I had to stop and think about how it could be both slow and engaging. I think the answer is that “The Race of the Century” is engaging because it appeals to ‘scrappy underdog with heart pulls through and wins’ motif that we all know and love. (So yes, I guess this is Rudy but with yachts.) It is slow because, well, it’s about yachting.

The part that might stand out to most Americans is that the non-underdog–the… overdog? I guess? I’m not sure what the alternative is–in the sport of yachting was… the United States. In 1983, the “America’s Cup” had been won by America for 132 years. Netflix claims that this is the longest winning streak in sports history. To be fair, the race is held every four years so we had won it only 33 times instead of 132 times, but that’s still a lot and certainly a long-standing record. And again, the bigger point here is that in our (or at least “my”) American arrogance it’s a bit jarring to watch something about sports where America is the big bad to beat and someone else (Australia, in this case) is the underdog. Having grown up watching the second Mighty Ducks movie and movies like Miracle and Rocky IV, it’s easy to just assume that we’re the underdog who has to work hard to pull through. And yet this obviously isn’t the case here and really hasn’t been the case anywhere for a while. There’s probably a good lesson here about hubris and the dangers of glorifying the nation, though again that’s not really the main point of the episode.

And that said, remember this is still a race involving yachts. Yes, maybe one side has fewer millions than the other, but it’s not exactly streetball or a pickup game of soccer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. The show is well-done and interesting. But I will encourage the viewer to keep perspective and remember that this isn’t a rags-to-riches story. We’re being entertained by watching what millionaires do for fun, and if that isn’t a sign of just where our culture stands I don’t know what is.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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