(Image Credit Rocky Fox, Kat Morgan & SI.com)
Beating incredible odds. Doing something not thought remotely possible. Overcoming all the naysayers. Fans of college basketball’s March Madness certainly saw their fair share of that in the last four days. (Condolences to you…and your brackets…)
Yet, even Middle Tennessee State’s upset of highly-touted Michigan State (my pick to win it all) completely pales in comparison to what is happening across the pond in English soccer’s Premier League.
During CBS’s coverage of the NCAA Basketball Tournament studio analyst Kenny Smith shared a story from his childhood. His father was a believer in life providing “paper ceilings” to overcome. Turns out Dad’s philosophy was Kenny would periodically be faced with what on the surface would appear to be barriers he could not rise above. However, he had to be ready and willing to punch through them…and would even be surprised how easily those “paper ceilings” would just give way if Kenny just gave the requisite effort to push against them.
The Premier League’s Leicester City Foxes have punched through most all imagined and real obstacles in their campaign this season and currently sit atop the League’s table five points clear of their closest opposition as the season winds down. They are in excellent position to win the Premier Championship with seven matches to go.
The best comparison I’ve seen so far to the sports world in the US comes from an American fanatic of the Foxes (name of Rocky Fox – I swear – who also proposed to his girlfriend on a recent trip to England to see the squad with a pair of stuffed foxes, one sporting an engagement ring):
It’s like one of our minor-league baseball teams being called up to play in…and then win…the World Series.
It’s that incredible a season.
Entering this season the British sports book title odds were listed at 5,000-1 for Leicester City…the same payout they offer for anyone discovering Elvis Presley is alive.
Other Premier teams have spent millions upon millions more to stock their rosters. But at least for this magical, mystical season the gigantic disparity in salary between those clubs and Leicester City has not paid off in trying to catch these Foxes.
Perhaps the reason for the impossible becoming probable is indeed supernatural. Consider this. King Richard III’s remains – undiscovered for five centuries – were unearthed in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester and he was eventually interred in the local cathedral there last March 26th, precisely when the team began an amazing stretch of success just to escape relegation and stay in the Premier League for this current season.
Since good ol’ Richard’s bones were reburied the Foxes’ winning percentage in the Premier League is over 77%.
In their previous 29 League games it was 26%.
If you choose not to believe properly laying to rest the deceased last ruler of the House of York explains how modestly-compensated Leicester City is on the verge of toppling all the ultra-rich clubs in English soccer …believe in the Foxes’ lively ability to properly sense when to counter their opposition’s attack and push forward quickly to put the ball in the back of their net. Even with one of the lowest possession time averages in the Premier League and the absolute lowest pass-completion percentage they know precisely when to counter, fast break on their opponent to score…and then proceed to lock down and protect their own net to…well…the death.
I likely haven’t posted on Premier League soccer lately because I – like many – was waiting for the big spending, traditional powers to unearth themselves and bring Leicester City back to earth.
We non-believers are all still waiting.
On paper at the start of the season Leicester City’s roster didn’t in any way display they could possibly be on the verge of the most unlikely Championship in Premier League history. Their ceiling for success – on paper – was quite substantial and very much out of reach.
But it appears if you play soccer with patience, intelligence and fearlessness…turns out “paper ceilings” don’t stand a chance.