By In Stuff

The Miracle

From NBC SportsWorld:

Leicester City have won the Premier League, and do you know what this story is like?


Nothing. That’s what it’s like. It’s not like the Miracle Mets of 1969 winning the World Series. It’s not like the St. Louis Rams winning the Super Bowl with a grocery-store-stocker-turned-quarterback. It’s not like the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Soviets in 1980. It’s not like Jim Valvano’s N.C. State team winning the NCAA title. It’s not even like Milan High School — the tiny school that inspired the movie “Hoosiers” — winning the Indiana state basketball title. …

In a league of their own

23 Responses to The Miracle

  1. blacksables says:

    When are you going to do a post about Bournemouth? They might not have won the league yet, but it’s a better story than Leicester.

  2. otistaylor89 says:

    The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team was made up of college kids who had never played professional hockey and the USSR team were made up of all professionals, many who already had HOF careers.
    The Leicester team is made up of all professional players and they were playing against other pros.
    Seems to me one is not like the other.

    • DB says:

      I think that is what Joe is trying to say. You cannot compare them. We do not have a real frame of reference. The best we have is the Mets (7 years later) or some other expansion team like the Marlins but that is not right either. I still say that Miracle on Ice was one of the greatest upsets of all time but it was one time (which makes it so special as well). This is like if the college kids took 20 out of 30 from the Soviets.


      Nothing. That’s what it’s like. It’s not like the Miracle Mets of 1969 winning the World Series. It’s not like the St. Louis Rams winning the Super Bowl with a grocery-store-stocker-turned-quarterback. It’s not like the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Soviets in 1980.”

      • I agree. The Premier League doesn’t have a playoff, it’s all of the regular season. So, you can’t just catch lightening in the bottle for one game & win the championship. You have to win more games and beat all of the better teams almost all of the time to win. As Herb Brooks said in his speech, if we played them 10 times, they probably win 9, but not tonight. One great game. Game of their lives. Tretiak has an off night and is pulled. Jim Craig stops shot after shot. Mark Johnson sneaks one in at the 1st period horn. Eruzione throws a middling shot at goal & it goes in for the game winner. Crazy, but stuff like that happens. Upsets are common. It is really hard to find a parallel in US sports. Even the Cubs who haven’t won in 100 years have paid big bucks and drafted well enough to have a great team. Nobody would be surprised if they won this year. I think it would be like if the Browns hadn’t won a Super Bowl after 130 years (we have about 70 more years to wait for that) and then won with some castoffs and players nobody ever heard of. That would be the best I can come up with. But still, the Browns had a great run for quite a while & actually had won the championship several times. So, still not quite there.

    • mark says:

      But pros ain’t all the same. That’s not fair. The entire Leicester team was playing in a rough equivalent of AAA baseball 2 years ago, but not because they were young prospects with potential, but because they couldn’t get hired by any first division teams. It is a team of of Crash Davises.

      On top of that, the 1980 Hockey team – which I adore – had to be good for 7 games in about 2 weeks to make its underdog run. Hard work, high energy and a bit of luck can propel a lesser team for limited periods. Leicester has played 36 times over a 9+ month season (clinching with 2 more games to play) and lost only 3 times. It’s ridiculous how hard this was.

      DB is right. There is no comparison. The 1980 US hockey team was amazing in its ways and Leicester in its own.

    • Gareth Owen says:

      The USA team were amateurs, but they were still the second or third best team in the tournament by anyone’s estimation. Sure, no-one fancied them to beat the Soviets, but a single upset win in 60 minute game — even against the might of that Red Machine (with or without Tretiak) — cannot possibly be compared to winning a league outright over a 38 game season.

      • 13 members of that US team played in the NHL and 9-10 of them had at least decent careers, several had long successful careers. They didn’t lack talent, they just were unknowns who played collegiate hockey (quick, name one collegiate player right now). But obviously the Russians were seasoned all-star level veterans. So, it was a big upset. But as you said, the team was very good & had talent.

      • Scott says:

        This is really understating the magnitude of the upset. The Soviets in 1980 might have been the best team in Olympic history. Four of their players were on the IIHF all-century team. It would be if the Dream Team had lost in 1992, but only if the Dream Team had played together for the past ten years.

      • NevadaMark says:

        When the tournament started they were seeded 7th.

      • Pat says:

        The worst part about that story is that while everyone talks about the semi-final match against the USSR, nobody ever mentions the finals victory over the devilish Finns.

        • Jim says:

          Actually, the games vs. the USSR and Finland were not semi-final and final, but part of the medal round’s round robin format (along with the tie vs. Sweden during the group phase). Had the U.S. lost to Finland, the USSR would have won gold.

          The Miracle on Ice was a tremendous upset, but it involved excellence for 7 games all played at home – not a 38-game slog through a double round robin. If were going to find a “worst part about the story”, it’s that it completely overshadowed Eric Heiden’s historic 5 golds.

    • professorbohn says:

      The 1980 U.S Olympic hockey team also beat the USSR one time. Leicester City had to prevail over the course of (to this point) 36 games.

    • esteban says:

      The US upset over the Soviets was only one game. If the US and Soviets played a 7 game series i’m sure the Russian’s would win the series 4-2. Leicester proved over 38 games that they were the best team in the league. Its such a difficult task that only 5 teams have won the premier league over the past 20 years since the top clubs can spend $200 million during the transfer period reloading the top talent in the world. We’ll never see an upset of this magnitude again.

  3. Brent says:

    So, after thinking about, the only NA professional team that I think might be similar is one from a long time ago, the Miracle Braves of 1914. Back then, some teams were clearly better than others in baseball, some teams never competed and the Braves certainly qualified. Some of this had to do with better scouting (the reason that the A’s and the Giants were dominant Dead Ball Era teams was the scouting abilities of Connie Mack and John McGraw), some just were willing to pay more money. The Braves weren’t good at either, pretty much the entire 1st half of the 20th century. They won two pennants in Boston, in 1914 and 1948. They finished in the bottom half of the league almost every year. They finished dead last every year from 1909-1912, losing a hundred games in doing so each of those years (which was harder to do, because fewer games). They did manage to finish 5th in 1913, but still were well under .500 and finished 31 1/2 games out of first place. And even in 1914, they were in last place on July 18. They then finished with a flourish, winning like 60 of their last 75 or something like that. And, of course, they swept the defending World Champs, the A’s (whose roster was littered with Hall of Famers), in the World Series.

    That is about as similar as you will find to Leicester in American professional sports.

  4. Chris M says:

    Wouldn’t the appropriate American example be if a D-II College Football team (let’s use 2008 Champ Minnesota-Duluth as an example) moved up to 1-AA after that season, then moved up to 1-A (sorry, FBS) and went like 4-8 last year before winning the National Championship this year. It’s almost incomprehensible and I think the odds would probably have been similarly low.

    • I think that’s a pretty good example. Recruiting is dominated by the “haves”. A good mid major can build up over time and become a competitive team. But, even then, none have challenged for a National Championship. Boise State and TCU are probably the closest to have done that, but even those places are not comparable to Leicester City and say Man U.

  5. Andrew says:

    Tom Hanks put down 100 pounds on Leicester City before the season. He must have had Scott Boros negotiate his deal with the Devil.

    • Great story, but it’s in dispute. He made the comment about the bet during a red carpet interview. But seemed to back off the claim when the interviewer directly asked if he had really made the bet. He answered “maybe I did and maybe I didn’t”. I’m not sure why he’s answering that way, but it suggests his original comment may have been a bit of bluster and he realized he would be held to it if he continued saying he won the bet.

  6. egalite says:

    I love your work Joe.

    This line was a problem for me though.

    “There is as little revenue sharing as possible. There are few incentives to help the small teams. Nobody even pretends that fairness is the goal.”

    It’s generally accepted that one of the strengths of the premier league, as compared to other European football leagues, is that they go out of their way to share more revenue than they have to. The more money they share from the TV deal, the more likely games are to be competitive, the more likely people are to watch, the more likely the next TV deal will be for even more money. In other countries the top teams get a much bigger proportion of the TV money, for example, Barcelona and Real Madrid. This is part of the reason the premier league makes more money than the other European leagues. Not necessarily the best league, but the richest.

    50% of the TV money is shared equally. The other 50% is shared out so that the more times you’re on TV, the more money you get and the higher up the table you finish, the more money you get. If you play well, you’ll finish higher up the table and play in more big televised games. It could be said that’s meritocracy. It could be said that’s fairness.

    There’s a good piece here:

    I feel like part of the job of a journalist is research, so that when a person comes to write about something, they know what they’re talking about. I love your work generally, but this seemed so wide of the mark I had to post something. It could be you were intending it to mean something else that went over my head. I’m reading it one way while you wanted it to be read another way, but I can’t see what that might be.

    • mark says:

      Comparing the PL to other major European soccer leagues you are absolutely correct. The PL has a remarkably TV revenue sharing arrangement. But compare the PL to American sports leagues and Joe’s statement holds up. It it’s helpful and useful you added the additional context, but writing for a US audience I think Joe’s statement is reasonable.

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