They Won

dogs_lgnv95Like a lot of folks, I love me a good David and Goliath story.  Hell, I’m a writer, I kinda have to like those stories since pretty much everything I create has some form of David & Goliath or another to it.

But, it’s important to note, I don’t like those elements just as a writer, I like them as a person, too.

Hell, a big reason why I — and folks like me — get so into sports is that same David v. Goliath thing.  It’s why we root for the underdog.  It’s why many of us root— even more strongly — against the “big boys” who win the league all the time.  Whether you’re talking about the NFL’s Patriots, MLB’s Yankees, or insert-your-own-dominant-team-here, we love to see the powerful fall and fail just as much as we love to see the underdog win.

But in the US we really only get to see a bit of that.  The Yankees will always be the Yankees, and the Patriots will continue to be the Patriots so long as Brady and Belichick continue to sacrifice small children to their infernal master…

No, although we have plenty of worst-to-first stories to talk about — I’m an LA Kings fan, after all, I lived that journey! — our league structures are just too rigid and defined to have true magic.

Soccer, however…

Okay, fine: football.  European football gets it right.  Promotion and relegation are true rewards and punishments, they bring true emotion and drama to the teams and fans involved.  A team can — theoretically — climb over the years from the lowest, most miserable league all the way to become champions of the highest one.  Look, think about it like a writer: would you rather write a story about the continued ineptitude and mediocrity of the Browns in NFL season after NFL season, or one about that same team having to rally and fight to keep themselves out of a forced move to the CFL?  I know which I’d rather write…

But even that doesn’t compare with true drama, with the true David versus Goliath stories…with the English FA Cup (and the other national cups around Europe).  Now, for those of you who might not know, the FA Cup is (mostly) not a thing of leagues and rankings.  No, instead all of the professional and semi-pro teams in the top 10(ish) levels of the English professional football pyramid take part.  Oh, the big boys get to wait to enter until the later rounds, but when they do enter, they still go into a hat to be drawn for matches against, well, whoever.

A team who normally plays in front of 500 folks in bumfuck Norfolk might end up playing in front 75,000 at Man City…

But that’s not the best part.

No, the best part is that team might win.

This past weekend was a special time in the English FA Cup, it was the Third Round.  The Third Round is when the Premier League teams jump into the pool, when the sharks start chomping on the minnows.

Now, sometimes you get the feel-good stories of the minnow fighting back, of the plucky 6th tier team that comes this close, that almost pulls off an upset against one of the biggest teams in the entire world (Woking versus Watford this year).

black_eyeBut occasionally…rarely…the minnow actually eats the shark.  The little guy wins, and the bully gets the black eye…

This year’s Third Round had a few such upsets, had some moments that were special, but it wasn’t until one of the last games of Sunday that the true magic came.

The Newport County Football Club — appropriately nicknamed the Exiles — is a team that disappeared into bankruptcy not so long ago, a team that had to fight its way back up the English football pyramid level by level.  It’s a team that wasn’t even allowed to play at its own stadium for a few years, for God’s sake, because they owed too much money…

The Exiles were playing not that team from bumfuck Norfolk, not another team from the shadowy, underpaid, rough & tumble lower professional leagues.  Nosirree, they were playing Leicester.  They were playing the team that won the freaking Premiership just two years ago.  They were playing a team that is arguably among the top 20-25 in the entire world.

And they won.

The American equivalent is Pasadena City College playing the LA Rams…and winning.

newportNewport fucking won.

This is why we talk about the emotion and drama of sport.  This is why we talk about the magic of sport.  This is why it affects folks so deeply.

This is why I love this stuff…

One thought on “They Won

  1. Matt Cowper January 10, 2019 / 5:42 pm

    “It’s a team that wasn’t even allowed to play at its own stadium for a few years, for God’s sake, because they owed too much money…”

    That’s funny…and sad…but mostly funny.


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