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:
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.