One Month to “Championship Sunday” on the Networks of NBCUniversal
“What were they thinking?” – NBC Sports Group Looks Back at Premier League Commentators’ Opinions on Leicester at the Beginning of the Season
Leicester Continue Title Campaign Against West Ham United This Sunday at 8:30 am ET on NBCSN
NBC Sports Group’s Entire Coverage on Sunday to Originate from Leicester’s King Power Stadium
STAMFORD, Conn. – April 12, 2016 – With a little more than a month until Premier League “Championship Sunday” (May 15 at 10 a.m. ET on the networks of NBCUniversal), Leicester City are on pace to become the most unlikely champions in the Premier League — and one of the greatest stories in sports history. In a narrative that sounds more folklore than fact, Leicester City pulled off the “great escape” last season to narrowly avoid being relegated out of the Premier League, before returning with a remarkable showing this season – remaining unbeaten in all but three matches.
Leicester City would become champions in England’s top flight for the first time in their 132-year history. No team which finished outside of the top four teams the season prior has ever won the title, and only four teams have won in the last 20 years (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City). In the simplest of scenarios, the Foxes will become this season’s champions if they win three of their remaining five matches.
“Leicester City’s rise to the brink of glory is a story that is captivating the world. If they manage to seal the title, they may well be the most universally popular Champions in Premier League history,” said NBC Sports Group’s lead Premier League play-by-play announcer Arlo White. “Their achievement so far is so outlandish, that it simply beggars belief. To be bottom of the table with seven games remaining one season, and seven points clear at the top with five games to play the next, is unique and mind bogglingly impressive.
“The talent of this team is unquestionable. Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante, and Danny Drinkwater are undoubtedly good players, but Leicester don’t have the best collection of players in the league. Instead, they are the ultimate manifestation of a ‘team.’ They get along with each other, support each other and work tirelessly for the common cause. They set a wonderful example of the rewards that teamwork, determination and fearlessness can bring. It’s a magnificent tale.”
“What were they thinking?”
NBC Sports Group’s Premier League commentators had some opinions about Leicester City’s chances at the beginning of the season, take a look here.
Premier League analysts Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle provide their updated thoughts about the Foxes on a special Leicester City-focused edition of The 2 Robbies “Football” Show this Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on the terrestrial NBC Sports Radio Network as well as on NBCSportsRadio.com and the NBC Sports Radio mobile app. In addition, the SportsTalk sites on NBCSports.com will publish a version of “The Biggest Cinderella Story” in their respective sports on Friday morning.
To add perspective to this historic feat, NBC Sports Group commentators offered up the most unlikely champions in the sports that they cover:
Al Michaels on 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team – “The 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team had an outside shot at a bronze medal as the Games began in Lake Placid. The group’s average age was 22 and most of the players had just finished their college careers. The Soviet Union team, on the other hand, were amateurs in name only. They spent eleven months each year on the ice either training or dominating competition on the international level. Had the Soviets been allowed to play in the National Hockey League at that time, almost everyone on their roster would have been a star.
“When the teams met on February 22, 1980, most everyone who knew anything about hockey gave the American team no chance. In fact, almost everyone expected the outcome to be totally one-sided. Over the next two hours and 15 minutes, the Soviets outshot the U.S. 39-16. They led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 with the U.S. then tying the game on each occasion. At exactly the halfway mark of the third period, Mike Eruzione scored to give the U.S. its first lead. It held up. None of this would have happened without a performance for the ages by goaltender Jim Craig, who made at least a dozen unbelievable saves to never let the game get out of hand. When the horn sounded an entire country erupted with joy.
“But there was still more work to be done. Forty hours later, that same team would be back in action against Finland needing a win to clinch the gold medal. Final score: U.S. 4, Finland 2. Thirty-six years later, it’s no exaggeration to say it still brings tears of joy to many, many people who reminisce. I’ve seen it firsthand.”
Bob Costas on 1969 New York Mets – “Confining it to teams that I saw and personally remember — which eliminates teams like the 1914 Boston Braves, the “Miracle Braves,” who came from last place at midseason and won the World Series — the fairly obvious choice is the 1969 Mets, simply because of everything that surrounded them. The Mets were synonymous with comic ineptitude. They finished last every year of their existence beginning in 1962 except for two, and those years they finished ninth in a 10-team league. They had never remotely been a contender. Even when they started to play well with their good young pitching staff, they still trailed the Cubs by nine games in August.
“They come from behind, catch the Cubs and win the division. They sweep Hank Aaron’s Atlanta Braves three straight in the LCS, and then the team they beat in the World Series is one of the best teams in modern baseball history – Earl Weaver’s Orioles of Brooks Robinson, and Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Dave McNally – a team that won three straight pennants (1969-71). The Mets lose the first game, and then they win the next four and knock off the Orioles in five games.
“That World Series includes some unbelievable plays and outcomes, diving catches by Ron Swoboda, a home run by Al Weis who almost never hit a home run, stuff that you could not possibly have expected, which is why they were the ‘Miracle Mets.’”
Tony Dungy on 1968 New York Jets – “The AFL champion Jets were heavy underdogs to the NFL champion Baltimore Colts, who had beaten the Cleveland Browns 34-0 to advance to Super Bowl III. The AFL was not considered on a par with the NFL at this point and even though Jets QB Joe Namath ‘guaranteed’ a victory, the Jets 16-7 win was a shocking upset.”
Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick on 1938 Chicago Blackhawks – “The recent answer is the 2012 Los Angeles Kings, who scratched into the playoffs as the eighth seed and won it all. But, the Leicester-like story was the 1938 Chicago Blackhawks. In a virtually-all-Canadian NHL, they had hired an American coach (Bill Stewart), had eight Americans on the squad, scored the fewest goals, only made the playoffs by two points, and upset everyone. So surprising were they that the NHL did not even have the Stanley Cup present for their clinching game. It was being sent on to Toronto for what the hierarchy believed would be a fifth and deciding game there.”
Marv Albert on 1975 Golden State Warriors – “The Rick Barry-led Warriors were the best team in the West, but only 48-34 and facing the 60-win Washington Bullets with Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. The Warriors really startled people with a sweep in what was their only championship prior to last season.”
Tom Hammond on California Chrome – “He was California-bred with undistinguished parentage, owned by two men who had never owned a race horse and had a modest $10,000 invested. He was trained by an octogenarian, who had never had a really good horse and ridden by a jockey who had seen his fortunes dip. All he did was win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and was voted Horse of the Year. His greatest performance came this year as a five-year-old, when he won the Dubai World Cup to become the highest-earning North American horse of all time, banking over $12 million. Pretty unlikely.”
Mary Carillo on 2015 U.S. Open tennis champion Flavia Pennetta — The surprise winner of last year’s U.S. Open, the veteran Flavia Pennetta faced another Italian player in the final, Roberta Vinci, who had stopped Serena Williams’ Grand Slam effort in 2015. Serena had to win two more matches – two – to be declared the greatest player with the greatest season since Steffi Graf in 1988. Instead, Pennetta won the title, promptly retired, and Serena hasn’t won another title since.”
Ato Boldon on Olympic hurdler Dawn Harper-Nelson – “Fourth-best in her own training group behind her world and Olympic champion training-mates in 2008, Dawn Harper-Nelson scraped her way on to the U.S. Olympic team by out-leaning the fourth-place finisher at the tape by seven thousandths of a second for third. Harper-Nelson went on to defy the odds and become Olympic champion in the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.”
Marv Albert on heavyweight champion James ‘Buster’ Douglas – “Buster Douglas’ knockout of Mike Tyson on February 11, 1990, in the Toyko Dome would be, without question, boxing’s greatest upset. Buster Douglas came out of nowhere. When I think of major upsets and unlikely finishes, that’s right up there with those in any sport.”
Kyle Petty on Alan Kulwicki – “Alan Kulwicki was a single-car team and an independent driver. He did it all on his own. He was not a Rick Hendrick; he was not a Joe Gibbs; he was not a big franchise. Nobody gave him a snowball’s chance in hades, and he comes out the NASCAR Series champion in 1992.”
On Sunday, April 17, NBC Sports Group presents more than six hours of live coverage from the King Power Stadium, where the atmosphere will be electric at the home of first-place Leicester City. The Foxes continue their title campaign against West Ham United Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Steve Bower will be joined in the on-site studio by Graeme Le Saux and Kyle Martino; while White, Lee Dixon and Robbie Mustoe provide the pitch-side perspective. White calls the match with Robbie Earle. Click here for more information about this weekend’s matches and NBC Sports Group’s road trip to the U.K.
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–