It’s Leicester City’s Party and the Yanks Are Missing It

May 3, 2016

Americans are supposed to love the underdog.

Why is it, then, that perhaps the greatest underdog story the sports world has ever witnessed went relatively unnoticed by the majority of the population this side of the Pond?

Undoubtedly, the Miracle on Ice would not have had as much meaning had you not been aware of just how good (and professional) the Soviets were during the 1980 Winter Olympics. And North Carolina State’s run during the 1983 Men’s NCAA Tournament was a story more than a week prior to Lorenzo Charles’s buzzer beating dunk against Houston.

Contrarily, how many of you just found out that Leicester was, in fact, a city in England that had a professional soccer club? Don’t lie.

Such is life in the United States, where soccer is still a niche sport dying to enter the cold hearts of individuals quick to judge its lack of action but more than willing to spend three hours watching the country’s so-called pastime. Hypocrisy, or perhaps lack of enlightenment, at its finest.

But without question, what transpired in the Barclay’s Premier League on Monday evening surpasses even the best underdog story in the States by a long shot.

Leicester City F.C. played in England’s third division of soccer, what is now called Football League One, as recently as the 2008-2009 campaign. To compare what the Foxes did this season in American sports terms is somewhat difficult. It would be similar to the Akron Rubber Ducks, the Cleveland Indians’ AA farm team, elevating itself to Major League Baseball via winning the AA and AAA crowns and parlaying that into a World Series title in seven seasons. Only the Rubber Ducks wouldn’t have the luxury of being given players the Indians drafted – they’d be competing for the same bodies as Major League clubs the entire time.

Thus, it makes more sense why Leicester City came into the season with 5000-1 odds of winning the BPL title (which is on par with an Elvis sighting, the Loch Ness Monster being real and Kim Kardashian winning the 2020 presidential race).

Last season, the Foxes were on the brink of relegation, another term absent from the vernacular of many American sports fans. In European soccer leagues, the bottom of the barrel in each division is demoted to a league one step below, while the best few teams from the lower division are brought up as a reward. In other words, be thankful you’re not located in Paris, Sixers fans.

In the wake of potentially being relegated last spring, the Foxes put together a string of seven victories in their least nine games to avoid the Football League Championship just a season after moving up to the Premier League. As it turned out, that was just the beginning.

Enter Jamie Vardy.

An integral part of the LCFC attack since 2012, Vardy emerged as one of the players of the year in the Premier League this season. Leading the charge of a deadly counterattack, Vardy has already scored 22 goals for the Foxes, good for third best in the in the league. But it’s Vardy’s backstory that makes him such a perfect fit for this overachieving team.

Six years ago, Jamie Vardy was playing in the seventh tier division and worked part time at a factory making medical splints. The working man, who has never shied away from a battle and even played six months with an electronic tag thanks to an assault charge around the same time, displays a “heart on his sleeve” personality that fans can rally behind.

Vardy, along with midfielders Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater, defenders Wes Morgan and Robert Huth and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, make up the core of a squad that had an opening day payroll of 48.2 million pounds, or roughly one fifth the payroll of BPL leader Chelsea (215.6 million).

It’s the kind of story that Americans should love.

The Moneyball feel of a club No. 17 in league payroll, with a gritty star that not long ago was Joe Everyman, against odds that only sightings of fictional and dead musical legends can match.

Fortunately, there’s still time to catch a glimpse. Because the Premier League champion is crowned based on points earned over an entire season rather than a playoff system, there are still two games left.

Do yourself a favor and wake up a little early on Saturday to catch these Foxes. After all, next time you could see something like this happen is in 2020 when Kim moves into the White House…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *