I picked a hell of a time to really get into football or soccer to us Americans. And I am so glad for it. Within the last 6 or 7 years I have been watching, I have seen some pretty amazing things. Sir Alex Ferguson getting that last title on his way out, Steve Gerrard’s infamous slip costing Liverpool a potential title, and even Atlético Madrid’s meltdown against Real Madrid in the Champion’s League final. One could almost count Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea, winning a title and then having his team collapse amazing the following season, however team collapses are normal but…nothing could prepare anyone from watching a team like Leicester City’s winning the English Premier League after only being promoted 2 years ago and nearly falling out of top flight ball.
We are talking about one of the longest odds ever in sports. We have a team that has not won a title in 132 years. We are talking about a team whose odds to win the EPL was 5000 to 1. That was bigger that the Red Sox coming back from 3 games down against the Yankees to eventually sweep the Cardinals in the World Series at 120 -1. Not tight enough? What about St. Louis Rams’ 300 – 1 odds to win the Super Bowl when Kurt Warner came from bagging groceries in a supermarket to do it. Even Buster Douglas’ win over Mike Tyson was only at 42-1.
Leicester’s winning the league is nearly equivalent to the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell and sadly, many American’s who only care about the Big Four in American sports will not truly understand what this means in sports.
“The magnitude couldn’t be reflected in the US because we don’t have levels of competition that teams can go between. The best equivalent I can think of is if a #16 seed in the NCAA won the tourney, got promoted to the NBA, won 63 games and won the NBA Finals in 5 games.”
For football aficionados, many would turn to Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, or even “the Chosen One”, Jose Mourinho has high standards of managers. They have taken teams that were rubbish and turned them around. But, for all of the resources these great managers have had, namely the financial resources to bring in great players, Claudio Raineri who replaced Nigel Pearson, deserves a lot of credit. To put it in perspective, this is the equivalent of all of the underdog movies suck as Rocky, Hoosiers, even Miracle. We are talking about a team who didn’t have the wealth and standing of at least 5 other of the greatest EPL sides playing today and won it all. Considering where Leicester has been in the past five years, they literally had to play past every team in 2 tiers to arrive at this moment and it’s well deserved and not many other sports teams on the planet can say that. Even when you consider some of the greatest American football and baseball teams who have won their respective championships, they still didn’t have to play every team in the league to get there like Leicester has.
At the beginning portion of the season, Leicester was a feel good story. These were the little guys going up against bigger guys and producing results. Most of us didn’t take them seriously because there were beating mid table teams but dropped big games against the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool. Prior to the Liverpool loss however, Leicester won against the reigning champs, Chelsea in 2 -1 win at which time, many of us were taking notice that this team may actually be in the running for the top four of the table. Usually about this time of the year, those feel good stories have been forgotten as those teams that started off strong started making way for established teams that are normally at the top of the standings.
Leicester was not going to be a team to be denied the top of the EPL table. With the exception, of Leicester fans and the hardest of hard core soccer aficionados, most of us could barely name the Starting XI. But by late 2015 we all knew who Jamie Vardy was. At the age of 29, he was performing well above other strikers 5 years younger and fresher than he was. He had scored at least once in his first 11 outings and was a huge reason why his team was doing so well. Then there is Riyad Mahrez, who instead of playing for teams in Spain, decided to become part of the team that earned the great relegation escape last year and proved to be a pivotal part of the team this year. Leicester’s budget for the players they had for this year’s squad was 21 million pounds, that’s 30 million dollars US. In comparison, Darelle Revis was picked up by the Jets last year for 70 million dollars with 39 million guaranteed and he is just one guy, and a cornerback.
What we have had here with this small club’s improbable win, is David having to slay many giants to get this win. It’s proof once again no matter how much money a team spends, they can still be beaten by smaller hungry clubs. Remember back in 2003 when the Lakers went all in and was pretty much its own all star team with the likes of Kobe’, Shaq, Rick Fox, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone? You remember who they want up against in the NBA Finals right? Beyond Rip Hamilton, Ben and Rasheed Wallace, I couldn’t tell you much about the Detroit Pistons who beat the Lakers in five games.
Today is a great day to be not only a footy fan but a sports fan. Leicester’s win is the stuff of legends. As I stated, it’s one of those wins that you only see in movies but for those of us that followed, we got the chance to see played out for these past two years, longer if you are a supporter of the team. Of course, no one knows what next season will bring as they face the arduous challenge of not only defending their title but also playing Champions League ball as well. For the uninitiated, they and a few other teams will be playing 2 leagues simultaneously during the course of the year. While I am slightly disappointed that it’s not my team lifting the title, and yes, we had to deny you yesterday, it’s still good to see stories like this come in sports and not stories like Deflategate or the Seahawks choking on the 3 yard line for absolutely no reason. It’s what long suffering fans year for. This is a moment that families of several generations of supporters sought after. This is a win that beats all wins.
Leicester, you really deserve this win and from this Manchester United supporter, thank you for making this season an interesting one indeed. Dear America, if you turn on ESPN Sports Center tonight and are still scratching your head over this, just consider:
5000 – 1 odds in these happening:
- Elvis is found alive.
- Yeti or Loch Ness Monster is proven to exist.
- Christmas is the warmest day of the year in England.
- Kanye West and Kim Kardashian name their next child Sinner.
- Kim Kardashian becomes the U.S. president in 2020.
- Barack Obama plays cricket for England after he leaves Oval Office.
So, talk about seeing history being made. Leicester, I tip my hat to you.