The Beauty of the Underdog

By | April 24, 2016

I can’t say that I have been a soccer fan for long. Growing up in Texas, most of my childhood was focused on football, basketball, and baseball. As a result, those were my favorite sports, both to watch and play. Throughout my childhood, I realized that there are teams that seemed like everyone disliked. These included the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Cowboys, and more. As I was young, I didn’t understand why no one liked those teams, but as I understand the rules of sports, I learned. Those teams were able to buy every player that hit free agency, and they won because of it. I realized that it’s no fun to root for the teams that could try to buy their way to championships.

But for every New York Yankees, there is a team like the Oakland Athletics. A team that defies all odds, grows their own talent, and makes a run at a championship. Teams like the 2011 Butler Bulldogs’ basketball team, the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons, and the 1980 Men’s U.S. Hockey team helped me understand what an underdog was: a team that defies the odds, and turns the majority of neutral fans on their side. That’s the beauty of an underdog. No one is excited to see the Los Angeles Lakers win their 17th title. No one wants to see the Yankees buy more players and get to the World Series. Everyone wants to see a scrappy little Butler Bulldogs team beat the Duke Blue Devils (except for us in Durham, that is). People love to see David slay the Goliath, and that’s what makes an underdog so special, because people can see the top teams that they already dislike go down to an extremely likeable team.

LC FC

This season in the Premier League, there has been a classic underdog story: Leicester City was 5000/1 odds of winning the Premier League. As of today, those odds are 1/5. They have defeated typical “Goliaths” such as Manchester City, and are ahead in the standings of “Goliaths” like Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, and more. The only team left that is able to mathematically win the league title is the Tottenham Hotspur, which is becoming less and less likely. Throughout the season, the Foxes have turned neutral fans into fans rooting for the unbelievable and unlikely. That is the true beauty of the underdog, to turn other teams’ fans into one’s own fans to help make a title run. I can say that I have been turned into a Leicester fan this season, and I hope that everyone can experience the beauty that they have caused. In my opinion Leicester is the greatest underdog that I have ever seen in any sport, and I hope that we all thankful for the history that we have been lucky enough to witness.

 

Works Cited

Innes, Richard. “How the Odds on Leicester Winning the Premier League Went from 5000/1 to 1/5.” Mirror. N.p., 24 Apr. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/row-zed/how-odds-leicester-winning-premier-7736523>.

4 thoughts on “The Beauty of the Underdog

  1. Jeremy Roth

    Dominic, I really enjoyed reading your piece, especially with regards to the connection you drew from the Premier League to other sports leagues around the world. It is truly fascinating to see a team that barely anyone thought had a chance to securely finish the season mid-table to go on and win the league, barring a massive collapse in their next 3 challenging but winnable matches. It is almost uncanny how an underdog team like Leicester can captivate such a large following. However, what I find to be an even more intriguing storyline is what will happen after this season is completed and Leicester are presumably crowned champions of the Premier League. A couple of their star players this season, such as N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, and of course, Jamie Vardy, will be sought after by many clubs around the world during this summer’s transfer window. Leicester will have to make tough decisions about its future and assess the possibility as to whether Claudio Ranieri and Co. can attempt to defend its title when massive clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United are primed to spend big this summer after truly disappointing seasons. It is unlikely that Leicester will be able to compete with these clubs to attract quality players, which might make it in Leicester’s best interest to sell some key players for exorbitant amounts of money in return. It will surely be interesting to see how Ranieri and Leicester’s management will decide to attack a crucial and unique transfer window.

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  2. Patrick He

    One thing that I have found really interesting about Leicester is how little money they have spent, both on transfers and on player wages. At 48.2 million pounds, LCFC has spent the least among all Premier League clubs that were not promoted from the Championship last season (17th overall). Contrast that with Aston Villa, which was mathematically relegated last week but has the 12th highest wage bill, or to Chelsea, which has had an abysmal season and has the third highest bill. The full table is here: http://www.totalsportek.com/money/english-premier-league-wage-bills-club-by-club/

    A lot has already been said in previous posts about Leicester’s system and tactics, specifically its counterattacking style, and much credit has to be given to Claudio Ranieri. At the same time, I think Leicester’s scouts have done an amazing job as well, bringing a player of Riyad Mahrez’s caliber for just 500 thousand euros. In fact, there were reports back in January that Arsenal was interested in two members of LCFC’s scouting team. While there was certainly some luck involved in that, it is absolutely refreshing to see such talented players at Leicester playing with some of the highest levels of passion and intensity in the entire league. As an Arsenal fan, I am definitely rooting for them to win the title, and not just because it would be a nightmare if Tottenham were to lift the trophy in May.

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  3. Austin Tran

    The interesting thing about Leicester is that when you watch them play the entire squad looks like they are out on the pitch out of purely love for the game. Leicester is not a financial powerhouse like most other teams and therefore does not pay relatively as well, so the men on the field who are about to claim the Premier League title play more so out of their desire to win and play good soccer rather than to protect their contract. While I am not saying that superstars do not genuinely enjoy the game when the play AND are good at it (look no further than Messi) the magic of Leicester lies in the fact that everyone on the field wearing a Leicester kit plays for something besides money. Sometimes this works, as is the case now, but a lot of the time this passion can be easily overrun by teams purchasing stars for astronomical sums. It will be interesting to see how success this year carries on to next year and whether or not the Leicester squad can merge financial success into their refreshing and almost playgroundish play style.

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  4. Tim

    Great piece. Leicester’s rise to the top of the Premier League table is even more impressive because the Premier League has been so top-heavy for so long. Don’t forget that only 5 teams have won the Premier League title since the league’s inaugural season in 1992: Man U, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Blackburn (?). As you mentioned, the squad improvement philosophies of many of the “top” clubs has been to acquire international talent. Yes, youth programs are also flourishing at many of these clubs, but the players making the most impact were often brought from another team. This also ties into the fact that team spending, at least to my knowledge, is largely unregulated and teams can pay astronomical prices to acquire the best players. The NBA, for example, has taken measures to prevent the formation of super teams and even directly intervened in blocking a blockbuster trade (Chris Paul to the Lakers). All in all, Leicester’s surprising season has been refreshing and highlights the importance of building from within as well as focusing on player development.

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