5,000 to 1 longshot has UK newspapers looking to celebrate
Leicester City wins the Premier League title, news that likely will get buried in the US – which is too bad, as most American readers will miss out on a great feel-good story
The chances are that most Americans couldn’t locate Leicester on a map if given the chance, so they would probably be wondering what the big deal is if they picked up a British newspaper this morning. The Guardian, for instance, has Richard III** on its cover – probably way over the heads of most US readers who might wonder if a Shakespeare festival was in town.
But the reason most UK papers have screaming fans, or screaming soccer players, or blank faced Richard, is that Leicester City has won the Premier League.
The team was nearly relegated last year – a situation where the team or teams at the bottom of the standings are forced out of the league into the next level, while the top team or teams at that level get promoted up to the higher level league. If we had relegation in the US the Cleveland Browns would be playing some team from Danbury or Toledo this year rather that Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.
Leicester famously entered this season 5,000 to 1 underdogs to win the title, but coach Claudio Ranieri apparently performed miracles, and the club with the fairly low payroll bested the big boys, teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and the others.
Most observers think it is a glorious thing, and good for the league. Like the Yankees always winning the World Series in the ’50s, fans wondered if there was room for their team to ever make it to the top. It happened a long time ago, but yesterday’s news that Leicester had won the title – coming when its nearest rival, Tottenham, allowed a late goal to Chelsea – was like that of the old Washington Senators winning the Series in 1924. That story inspired the 1955 musical Damn Yankees, about a man who sells his soul to become Joe Hardy and lead his team to victory.
But real life is sometimes better that fiction, because the real life Senators were good enough to go to the World Series the following year in 1925 (only to lose to the Pirates), few think Leicester can repeat the magic next year, but who knows?
Meanwhile, yesterday was a bank holiday in the UK, likely making it a slow news day. That gave newspaper editors plenty of time to decide how to cover the big sports news. If you ask me, The Daily Mail failed miserably. The Guardian got a bit cute, but it’s a keeper. The “i”, recently sold off by its owner to Johnston Press, does the best, while The Sun does a decent job – but that’s just my view.
** If you are wondering about the significance of Richard III on the Guardian’s cover, it involves the fact that poor Richard was killed in a battle with Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. After his death, his body was taken to Leicester and buried with no marker, apparently lost forever. But in 2012, his grave was found in a city council car park, once the site of Greyfriars Priory Church. Richard was identified through DNA – as well as the distinctive curvature of his spine – and reburied in Leicester Cathedral just last year. Maybe this reburial was what was needed to provide the divine intervention necessary for The Foxes, as Leicester City’s team is known, to triumph.