Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
The English Premier League, unlike the NFL, offers justice.
If you're one of the worst teams, you don't just get laughed at.
You get sent into another league altogether.
Leicester City, from a small industrial town in England's Midlands, was a team that almost everyone tipped to come last.
Before the season started, the bookies had Leicester at 5,000-to-1 to win championships.
Even the U.S. Olympic Hockey team in at the 1980 Olympics was given 1,000-to-1.
In fact, you can get better odds on Kim Kardashian being the next U.S. president than you could on Leicester winning the league.
No one in Leicester seriously thought that their team could win the English Premier League.
Of course, some people bet a few pounds on the miracle. Ask them if they were sober when they did it.
The team had just hired Italian coach Claudio Ranieri.
At 64, he was a respected, distinguished coach. He was particularly distinguished by the fact that he had never coached a league-winning team in any championship in any country.
The team had no players that anyone coveted.
There were a few English journeymen. There were a few foreigners whom no one but the soccer equivalent of a trainspotter could identify.
Leicester City just won the English Premier League.
Here's what you can learn from this incredible, impossible triumph.
1. Don't Let Anyone Tell You You're Small.
At no point this season did Leicester City behave as if it were unworthy of being in the Premier League (which it had been for only two years). This team was supposed to cower. They learned quite quickly that soccer is a game in which there are 11 human beings on either side, the rules are (more or less) the same for rich and poor, and anyone can score or make mistakes.
2. Have Faith in the Employees You Have, Not the Ones You Wish You Had.
Ranieri is a calm, sophisticated man. He didn't go to the media and claim that the owner wasn't spending enough money on the team. He worked with what he had. He brought the best out of players that few other teams craved. He allowed them to be the best that they could be. And they became the best.
3. You Don't Have to Be Negative to Win.
English Premier League history is littered with teams who won by playing negative soccer (any team coached by Jose Mourinho, for example). They learned how to defend first. They bored people into submission and won by taking the few scoring chances they were offered. In contrast, Leicester was wonderful to watch. The team knew how to defend (hey, the coach is Italian). But in players such as Algerian Riyad Mahrez, Japan's Shinji Okazaki, and England's Jamie Vardy, they had players everyone loved to watch. They were simply players that most people had never seen before.
4. Castoffs Sometimes Just Need to Be in the Right Place at the Right Time.
Mahrez, on joining Leicester from a French club, admitted that he didn't even know Leicester had a team. He had been playing for the second team at Le Havre in France (think Albuquerque United). Vardy was playing semi-professional soccer only four years ago. N'Golo Kante was playing for Boulogne, which was about to slide into France's Third Division. (Think bad single-A baseball.) Marc Albrighton was deemed surplus to the requirements of Aston Villa, the team that came bottom of the Premier League this year. This was like the cast of Major League. Somehow, they all came together and beat teams on whom hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent. Somehow, Mahrez ended up being voted by his fellow professionals as the MVP of the whole league. All he needed was the right atmosphere.
5. Doing It Is Better Than Dreaming It.
I fancy no one at Leicester City ever thought about winning it all. More likely, they hoped to avoid relegation. If they dreamed, they dreamed about finishing in the middle of the rankings or beating one of the big teams at least once. All they did was go from one game to the next and experience their own success unfolding, week by week. Leicester City lost only three times over 36 games this season. That's even better than the Golden State Warriors. They neither lost their heads (well, there were a couple of isolated incidents) nor did they spend their time crowing to the media. Perhaps they hadn't learned how to do it.
6. Good Things Can Happen to Those Who Wait a Lifetime.
At 64, Ranieri had just failed coaching the Greek national team. He can't have hoped for more than a little fun, some modest success. He had watched his contemporaries win championships many times. Every time, he had to walk away and be the one who never won the Big One. Leicester finally clinched the title when Spurs fought (literally) to a draw (a tie, to some of you) with Chelsea. Ranieri didn't watch that game. He was on his way back from having lunch with his mom in Italy. Imagine how he felt when he touched down.