The Cubs, English Football, and ‘Go the Distance’
Even casual baseball fans noted that the Chicago Cubs clinched their division last week. The earliest any team in baseball has clinched in quite a long time, they have, by way, the best record in baseball. Clinching however, did not necessarily bring a lot of happiness to most Cubs fans. They’ve been through this before. Steve Bartman anyone?
As most people know the Cubs won their last World Series in 1908. They haven’t been in a World Series since 1945. They’ve had a few close calls over the last 108 years but something always seems to happen, from black cats crossing the dugout, to a goat with a curse, to the aforementioned Bartman. It’s pretty much unnecessary at this time to point out that theirs is the longest drought in major league baseball history.
Cubs fans though can take solace in the fact that last year the Leicester City Foxes, an English football team, won the Premier league championship. Why was this big news? Because Leicester City has been in the first two divisions of English soccer since 1884 and had never won anything. They were the Chicago Cubs of English Premier league before there were Chicago Cubs, the only difference being Leister’s history of frustration was not only much longer, they couldn’t even point to a hundred-year-old championship.
It’s probably no surprise that prior to the English Premier season kickoff last September, Leicester City was a 5000 to 1 underdog. Sports betting is legal in England, betting on sports betting is legal in England, for that matter. At 5000 to 1 a lot of long-suffering Leicester City fans, of course, put a pound or two down on their team. Some put much more than that down. 50, 75, 100 pounds, as a matter of fact.
All gladly taken by the touts and betting parlours all over Great Britain. Then Leicester City started winning. And they started winning over teams they had never beaten, home and away. They gained momentum and after a few weeks they shot to the top of the English Premier tables. They stayed. Everyone – that would include touts, fans, the general public – assumed (or were positive) that the Foxes would eventually hit the wall and drop like a rock through the tables as they had countless times over the last 132 years or so.
By December, however, it started to look really serious. Leicester City stayed in first place, they beat the teams directly behind them, won a lot of close games, stayed right where they were. The betting parlors started to get very, very nervous. So did Leicester City fans, but for entirely different reasons. Like Cubs fans, like Red Sox fans before 2004, they were waiting for the sky to fall in on their team.
The guys running the sports betting companies, though, were facing millions upon millions of pounds in losses. So, they started to offer buyouts for the people that bet on Leicester City. Some fans cashed out very early, one woman traded in a potential six-figure payday in May for 1200£ (about $1,950.00) in December hours, before the Foxes won against one of the best teams in the league.
Leicester City kept winning and bettors, counterintuitively, kept cashing out their bets. They could see their team at the top of the tables, they could see the usual Premier League powerhouses losing, but they simply didn’t believe that it would continue into May.
Which brings us to the anonymous gambler who bet 50 pounds on Leicester City shortly before the season began in September. He hung on until late February. Then, hours before a key game against traditional powerhouse Arsenal, he accepted a 50,000£ payout. The Foxes won that game 1-0. The price of payouts went up 20,000£. ‘Anonymous’ lost $26,000 in ninety minutes.
Understand too, that the Foxes certainly didn’t have to beat Arsenal to stay in first place, it really was all just a matter of perception – ‘lose to these guys (again) and the rest of the season’s going down the tubes’.
Somewhere around mid-March, it was apparent even to the most fervent nonbelievers that Leicester City was going to win the league, so there really wasn’t much point left in trying to buy people out.
The Foxes all but clinched in late April, ‘Anonymous’ – he’s been all over the newspapers for months and has never been identified – would have cleared $325,000.
That one day of doubt in February cost him six figures. He just couldn’t go through with it despite all the empirical evidence in front of him. He focused more – if not entirely – on the past and missed what was happening right in front of him. And, of course, he listened to other people, the naysayers who were probably chanting right up to the day that the Foxes clinched that they would fall apart.
I see this often in my practice, on every side. Whether it’s the unshakable belief that fathers don’t get custody, or the unwillingness to tell your attorney everything, or just the general feeling that the system doesn’t work for ‘people like you,’ some things get in the way of success. In life, baseball, English Football, and family law.
Most of these things are in your control, you just have to, to take a line from a famous movie about Iowa, ‘Go the Distance.’