In the fall of 2016, I stood in Wrigleyville watching Chicago Cubs fans go crazy as their team had won its first World Series in 108 years.
The crying, the hugging, the pictures, the videos, experiencing it all should have qualified as a once-in-a-lifetime reporting experience.
And yet, when a Cubs fan asked me that night if it was the most amazing celebration I’d ever seen, I had to answer, ‘Well, actually….”
May 2, 2016, five years ago today. I had flown in to England just days before and headed to Leicester. The Leicester City Foxes were just points away from becoming the Premier League champs.
Bookmakers made fun of them when they were promoted to the Premier League by offering 5,000-to-1 to win.
The odds of Elvis being found alive were about 4,000 to 1. The odds for Kim Kardashian to be president were 1,000 to 1.
None of the previous 12 Premier League winners began the season with odds longer than 6-1.
When the Cubs won the World Series, they were 10-1 to win it all that year. Yeah, they hadn’t won in 108 years, but they were near favorites.
When Leicester City was promoted to the Premier League, oddsmakers could have made them 500 to 1, but the 5,000-to-1 odds to the people of Leicester was like spitting in their face. (The largest mass event offering at the longest odds to cash in in British history was Todd Hamilton, who teed off at The 2004 Open Championship at 750 to 1.)
Did anyone bet big on the Foxes? Of course not.
Their stars were complete castaways playing against the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United.
Jamie Vardy worked in a factory to make ends meet. Riyad Mahrez played in the second division of French football, while N’Golo Kante once wasn’t good enough for the first seven tiers of French soccer.
The largest single bet was a 34-year-old Leicester man who was crazy enough to bet $145 on them when they got down to 1000 to 1. He still made $145,000.
And there were stories I found scattered across the London suburb. Leigh Herbert, a 39-year-old carpenter from Leicester, bet $7.31 on the Foxes to win it all. He couldn’t afford to not do a deal with William Hill as Leicester closed in, so he settled for a $30,218 payoff. And there was Karisma Kapoor, a 20-year-old student, whose $3 turned into $14,600.
When Tottenham and Chelsea tied 2-2 at Stamford Bridge on this day five years ago, I was in one of the biggest bars in town as glassware went flying into the air as everyone in the pub lost their minds.
In sports history, we’ve learned that anything is possible to do, to overcome crazy odds once, but what Leicester did over the course of a season will definitely never happen again.
How do I know this? Well, I know that oddsmakers wouldn’t be stupid enough to offer 5,000 to 1 ever again.