The Greatest Upset in History

I know you won’t believe me, but they just won the league.

Tom Watson sank the putt.  Gordon Heyward made the shot.  It’s a day for Cinderellas everywhere – and those who root for them – to shed a tear of joy.

I haven’t done a sports post in a long time, but I thought what was probably the unlikeliest story in sports history merited it. The Foxes of Leicester City – 5000-1 underdogs at the start of the season – have won the English Premier League.  Those of you who don’t follow soccer/football may not grasp the sheer ridiculousness of that statement.  Only five teams have ever won the EPL, and in the last 20+ years only the four great rich clubs – Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal – have won it.

It’s almost impossible to put into context just how unlikely this turn of events is.  Seven years ago Leicester was playing in England’s third division.  They were only promoted to the Premier League two seasons ago, and last year they were in last place – facing certain relegation – in late April.  Their entire team payroll is lower than the annual salary of the highest paid players at the big four clubs.

But they’ve done it.

Never since the inception of sports betting has a 5000-1 shot won – never.  You may know about “giant killings”, when small football clubs pull off a miracle win over a powerhouse.  Well, Leicester just pulled off a nine-month giant killing.  Not only did they manage to top all of those power clubs (and Tottenham Hotspur, another rich London club, among others) but they sustained it over a grueling 38-game slog (clinching after 36, in fact).  They did it under a much-derided manager in Claudio Ranieri – nicknamed “Nearly Man” because he could never win a first-division title in his long career.

It was fitting that the title was clinched when Raineri’s old team, defending champion Chelsea, held Tottenham to a 2-2 draw in a frantic and brutal game at Stamford Bridge (you can bet Chelsea and their fans were thrilled to stick it to their London arch-rivals and help their old manager).  And watching that match was the entire Leicester City team (Ranieri was flying back from Rome, having just taken his 96 year-old mother to lunch) at star striker Jamie Vardy’s house.  Here’s what it looked like when the final whistle blew:

https://twitter.com/LCFC/status/727272513705639936

I don’t disrespect what the likes of Man. U. and Chelsea have done so many times, but let’s be honest – you’d never see that kind of joy at Wayne Rooney or John Terry’s house.  Or see on the streets of North London or Manchester what you’re seeing in Leicester tonight.  Only something this miraculous could elicit this much elation – it means so much more to Leicester and their fans than it could ever mean to one of the power clubs.  In 132 years, Leicester City football club have never been champions of England.  Until today.  #FearlessFoxes forever.

As a lifelong sports fanatic, this means a lot to me.  Things like this just don’t happen – Watson doesn’t close the deal.  Butler doesn’t sink the final basket.  The sports Gods are cruel and not at all sentimental – but they were powerless today.  Thank you, L.C.F.C., for the greatest season in sports history, and for some of the greatest memories I’ll ever have.

LCFC

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14 comments

  1. The NFL draft just ended and you post about a bunch of barbarians kicking skulls. Humpf!

  2. The NFL draft might just have ended, but who wouldn’t be talking about something that will surely be made into one of those cheesy inspirational sports film in like 2 years from now? This is real life shonen anime shit. The NFL can wait.

  3. R

    Yooo the NFL draft happens every year. This is a once in a century thing. Literally. It’s been more than 130 years. That’s almost as old as American football as a sport is (I don’t count the 1860’s or 1870’s, I say it’s from the 1880’s onwards after Walter Camp)

  4. R

    I don’t follow football nearly as ardently as you Enzo but congratulations nonetheless. Hell I don’t even need to know anything about it. FIVE THOUSAND TO ONE. That’s not a football miracle, that’s a sports as a whole miracle.

  5. R

    And now that you’ve made me curious and I went to read up on the team this is actually more than a miracle. A team tallying in at less than 30million pounds, most of them from second tier or lower, and a coach who was sacked 5 times before. Holy shit this is actually real life shounen sports manga right here. You actually can’t get a more underdog story than this

  6. Indeed, if it happened in manga I would be complaining about “Shounen Jump” moments. This kind of thing just does not happen in sports. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

  7. It really is incredible, I haven’t seen anything like it following the sport since 1990-ish.

    Greece winning the Euro 2004 is something, but this is simply in another stratosphere of achievement. A complete triumph of collective strength and team spirit. Can’t be happier for Ranieri, one of the most endearing managers in the business, too.

  8. M

    And to think this incredible story began with a racist orgy in Thailand…

  9. J

    What odds do you think you would get for that fact being left out of the movie adaptation?

    As someone old enough to be regaled with the tales of Clough, I’d still rank Nottingham Forest’s Division 1 titles above this (both seasons individually), but that in itself only shows how extraordinary this season has been. I can’t think of a any similar league victory in recent memory.

  10. I don’t think Forest’s run, crazy as it was, can be compared to this because you didn’t have the mammoth financial gap that exists in English football today. Clough had already won a 1st division title. And there was no dominant quartet (thanks to money) who’d owned the league for 20 years and more. Context makes Leicester’s title much more unlikely in my view (and not just mine). But of course what Forest did was spectacular, and the irony is that Forest and Leicester are great rivals and neighbors.

  11. J

    I’m not sure that’s fully representative – while there are literal billions at the richer EPL clubs, even at the bottom clubs still have tens of millions to spend thanks to the ever-expanding and almost spectacularly fair TV rights as far as top European leagues are concerned. This season has demonstrated that that sort of money can still be put to great use (don’t forget Spurs), and perhaps more importantly, spending eight figures is no guarantee of success. There could be a dominant octuplet for all the good it does if they all spend their 7/8 figures as if their managers/DoF/owners are punch-drunk.

    Where I would agree is that Leceister’s run going back over the last seven seasons is more remarkable than anything else I can remember.

  12. My counter-argument is pretty simple. If the top 4 teams in League A spend $1000 on average and Team A spends $500, and the top 4 teams in League B spend $10000 and Team B spends $2000, which team is at a greater disadvantage? Sure, Team B spent 4 times as much as Team A – but who cares? It’s all relative.

    The other thing I’d say is – look at the evidence. How many teams outside the big 4 had won the EPL over the last 20 years before this year? Hell, how many had even made it to the Champion’s League?

    Lastly, wouldn’t use Tottenham as an example of teams winning on the cheap – they were 6th in the EPL in payroll this season.

  13. d

    As a Chelsea fan i’m glad leicester drew at Old Trafford, it gave us chance to finish off Spurs at Stamford Bridge. Hell, we didn’t have much to cheer about this season, but nonetheless, it makes us happy to be able to stick it on Spurs face, and of all people it was Eden Hazard that stuck the final nail in the coffin for them, the player that has been missing since last year, came back only to finish off Spurs. Anyway, congrats to the Foxes for this victory.

  14. M

    Well done foxes. Once in a lifetime.

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