Rovell: What It Was Like to Witness Leicester City’s 5000-1 Stunner — the Greatest Longshot of All-Time
I started my quest in March 2016.
The greatest story in sports gambling history was happening across the pond, and I wanted to be there when it came true.
Leicester City was a promoted team in the Premier League with a hodgepodge of players and — all of a sudden — they were at the top of the table.
They were 5,000-to-1 to win it all. And they were going to win! With millions on the line, sportsbooks were trying to buy out punters.
I was with ESPN at the time and I had worked my idea up the flagpole: Give me an open-ended trip to Leicester within a two-week period and let me capture greatness.
It got nowhere for awhile, and television said they were not interested. I had hit a wall … until I got to ESPN.com’s editor-in-chief Chad Millman. Chad, who I now work for again at Action, had covered gambling for a long time and he just got it.
“Just go,” he said. “I know you can get us what we want.”
On an open budget, which was kind of unheard of, I flew to London.
I have never seen a town so sports crazed. No one was working — all they could think about was the team. Every business had a Leicester City logo in the store front. And retailers and suppliers were so unprepared for how good the team was going to be that there was virtually nothing to buy. The team’s official store at their stadium was literally just racks of metal.
I walked around town asking people, “Who was smart enough to bet on Leicester?” I found a carpenter named Leigh Hebert, whose $7 bet became $36,500. And Karishma Kapoor, whose $3 bet turned into $14,600.
And then I just waited for the clinch. Didn’t happen at the first chance. While doing live shots on SportsCenter — TV now wanted the story, of course — a bunch of fans, drunk in the middle of the day, came busting into my van singing, “We’re gonna win the league.”
And they did on May 2, 2016.
I stationed myself in the most packed bar in town (that had WiFi) and took hundreds of videos of possible goals as a tie in the Chelsea-Tottenham game would give the Foxes the title.
When Chelsea’s Eden Hazard knotted it up, I was ready. The crowd exploded. Beer mugs were tossed in the air. People hugged. And cried.
Most of them didn’t have bets, but the most improbable of improbable had happened, and I was there.