For those less inclined towards perusal of sporting minutiae a moment in time promises to interrupt your ambivalence. David and Goliath, or Rocky 1, 2, 3, 4 … stories are the stock of inspiration, albeit fantasy. Underdogs do sometimes win, beating almost insurmountable odds and we beat our chests momentarily uplifted by the proof that the mundane can, very occasionally morph into the extraordinary.
The Leicester syndrome represents something different to the historical rise of the Phoenix. Most long shot winners beat the odds by virtue of lady luck shining. A rare fumble at a crucial point in a rugby match, a dubious offside decision in a football match, or a miraculous catch in the outfield can conspire to create those 1:100 triumphs.
The Leicester syndrome will cross from the pages of sporting statistics to the wider domain of universal inspiration.
The brief story absent of the emotion, blood sweat and tears at its core goes something like this: The English Premier League (soccer) has evolved into the richest and consequentially most competitive club football competition on the planet. There are no salary caps or mechanisms to level the playing field. On the contrary, those with the biggest stadiums, the most lucrative global sponsorships and wealthiest oligarch ownership have a monopoly over the best players of the current generation, the best managers, support staff, and medical facilities.
This massive advantage is compounded annually, as the rich continue to get richer and the other 80% compete primarily to avoid the dread of relegation and possible liquidation.
Any team can have a good or lucky streak, where the hand of fate seems to intervene favourably, but the Leicester syndrome seems to defy all logic. The first miracle was that their crazy streak began at the tail end of season 2015 when they beat the odds of certain relegation and slide into the abyss of football oblivion by the skin of their teeth. A new foreign manager replaced the popular saviour of the club and the football community anticipated a touch and go flirt with relegation the following season.
The mantra from the manager as the season began surprisingly well was “40 points, 40 points that’s our first goal.” 40 points usually representing survival for another season in the big leagues
As the season progressed seasoned and respected commentators predicted with universal failure the point at which the wheels would come off. At odds of 5000:1 similar to what you might get for a three-legged horse in the Melbourne Cup, it wasn’t unreasonable to ask not if, but when the fantasy bubble would burst. It didn’t, and history was written.
The Leicester syndrome does not relate to the 57 hours of football played by the squad of 20 or so players, but to the underlying philosophy.
Impossible odds are rarely impossible, though highly unlikely. There is a huge distinction. When we believe something is unattainable it has a power over us that utterly debilitates. Whilst a pursuit inhabits the zone of the unlikely we can focus intensely on the next step, and then the next until defeat or glory reveals itself.
I doubt any of the Leicester players or manager believed they would finish in the top half of the table never mind winning the whole caboodle, but there had to have been an irrational self belief in tackling each game as if it was the most important of their combined careers.
Attempting the virtual impossible is a recipe for potential disaster and abject failure. Not all of us crave the validation of climbing the highest mountain, or conquering the world, but we are all playing a game, that game may be the relationship game, the dating game, the career game, the sporting game, the adversity game and indeed any number and combination of games.
The Leicester syndrome represents the lesson learned from a once in a generation or two, that if you play your game one move at a time with 100% commitment and focus the odds can turn your way. You have to be in a game to have a chance at glory. The odds don’t have to be 5000:1 but having an absolute commitment to the next step and a self-belief that at least one more step is achievable now has a wonderful precedence – if Leicester can do it maybe the impossible really is merely unlikely.
Go boldly and play your game well!