Biggest sports upset of the past year?

There have been some doozies…

Eagles over Patriots.
Lakers over Warriors.
Middle Tennessee over Michigan State.
Japan over South Africa.

What was the biggest, or else your favorite?

Rhonda Rousey losing

Leicester City FC going from bottom-of-the-table certs-to-be-relegated to top-of-the-table certs-to-be-champions in one year in the Premiership in the space of 1 year.

How about the unranked Roberta Vinci beating Venus Williams in the 2015 US Open Semis, ending her bid for a calendar year Grand Slam?

I thought about that, but somehow a team exceeding expectations over the course of a season feels less… upset-y to me.

Rousey and Williams are good candidates; I forgot those, just because their rep was/is so dominant, at last for now.

AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol.

Yes.

Serena Williams. Arguably the biggest upset in women’s tennis history.

I know the hype about Rousey had her unbeatable but some good judges thought that she was quite beatable.

5000-1 at the bookies for Leicester to win the Prem at the start of the season. A few (presumably well oiled) people went for it. If anything the sustained nature of it makes it more of an upset.

For me, unless Elvis Presley signs up for Stoke City, it will probably be the greatest sporting upset ever.

If they win…

I’m amazed that the bookies felt the need to offer a price like that to get a bet on them. They had won promotion from the Championship in 2014 and in 2015 had started the season well and after a long slump staged the best ever recovery by a relegation threatened side in Premier League history. With a new manager I don’t think you had to be a genius to think those odds were overs. Good luck to those who got on. It must have been a thrill watching the wins mount up.

In the Australian Rugby League competition since 1908 5 sides have finished last one year and played in the grand final the next year. One of them won. Bookmakers would probably only offer 200/1 about the worst team at the start of the year. Currently a quarter of the way through the season 250/1 is available about a team that clearly cannot win.

In the recent Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, the eventual winners, West Indies, were beaten in the group stages by Afghanistan - the first time that the time has beaten one of the “top” teams.

The WI had already qualified from the group, and had rested a couple of players (notably Chris Gayle, their best batsman of the format), but were still expected to wipe the floor with the upstarts.

If 58 yr old Bernhard Langer wins the 2016 Masters, I think it will qualify. He is T3rd and two shots behind going into the final round.

Serena, not Venus. And it was a big deal, especially since she was not an up and comer. Vinci was 32, been on the tour a long time, had lost all 4 matches against Serena, and was considered a fluke to get to that point.

It’s not quite the greatest of all time or anything, but it was a bid deal.

I’d agree with mascaroni on this, an upset in a two horse race is always a possibility though they might surprise and shock. Serena or Djokovic getting knocked out by an unranked player? well it is unusual but it can happen. People could imagine a situation where it happens due to an off-day vs an inspired day.

But I promise you that no-one…no-one…seriously and honestly no-one could have conjured up a realistic scenario for Leicester winning the premier league, and certainly not winning it this well. They have easily been the best team.

(and I don’t think I’m jinxing them, with the spurs game currently a draw they are 9 points ahead with 15 possible points available. Personally I think another 4 or 5 points wins them the league and their current form suggest that is well within their reach. As a neutral I really hope they do it)

Is there a tournament to decide the Premier League champion, or is it decided by season record?

ETA: Go Foxes!

season record only. 38 games and the winner is the winner.

The same is true for all the other major leagues in Europe.

I think the thing about Leicester is it is so difficult to explain exactly how this came about. You look at all the major possible reasons and none of them are entirely satisfying, even when taken in tandem.

  1. Is it luck? No, the format is essentially to have the best ‘average’ results in the league over the course of 38 games where you play each of your 19 opponents twice. Unlike a knockout tournament where a string of lucky wins can make an outsider the Champions (for example Greece certainly rode their luck on the way to becoming 2004 European Champions), the round robin format makes it astronomically unlikely that luck is the main contributor to final league placing. Certainly Leicester have had a bit of luck and a bit of luck can make the difference between a title challenger and a champion, but nobody would’ve expected Leicester to even close to a title challenger.

  2. Is it the result of some brilliant new tactical innovation? When Alf Ramsey upset the form book and won the league with Ipswich in their first ever season in football using a cast of unfashionable players (only two of that Ipswich Town team were ever capped internationally in their careers), the innovation of pushing the wingers back to the midfield baffled their opponents and was to go on and influence all modern formations, the current Leicester team on the other hand use a formation that is regarded as slightly antiquated. Leicester’s use of the 4-4-2 can be regarded as a minor tactical innovation, but there’s still a number of teams around that use it and all opposing players and managers would be familiar with it.

  3. Is it due to the poor performance of the ‘big’ teams? Last years champions Chelsea have been unexpectedly bad and currently sit in 10th and the dominant team of the Premiership-era, Manchester Utd ,have experienced moderate turmoil since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and haven’t put up a convincing title challenge in the previous two seasons. Man City, last season’s runner-ups and the season before champions have moderately underperformed. Now between those 3 teams they have won the last 11 titles so undoubtedly there is a vacuum to be filled, but the point is that no-one would’e expected Leicester to be the team to fill this vacuum. The only other team (excepting Blackburn who are now in the 2nd tier) to win the Premiership is Arsenal and they have led the league for portions of the season and have been pretty good, of the teams that are usually chasing Champions League places Spurs have been phenomenal this season and lie in 2nd place.

  4. Have the Leicester’s player’s performances exceeded expectation? Certainly yes they have and this is the biggest factor of those mentioned in their push for the title, but it is also a big part of the mystery. Before this season I would’ve said the only player on the team who was seriously underrated was Schmeichal, but the rest of the team seemed to be known quantities who had no business being on a Premiership-winning side. How so many of them have massively exceeded expectations is a mystery.

  5. Is it the manager? Certainly Ranieri deserves massive credit and his influence surely must’ve contributed to the effects of 2) and 4), but he also is very much a known quantity and is astounding that in his almost 30 year managerial career he has failed to win a top division with at least one of the big-name teams he has managed, but at the moment looks set to do it with no-name Leicetser!

For the past twenty or so years there’s been a ‘Big Four’ in The Premier League: Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and first Liverpool, then Man City. Only Spurs (twice) and Everton have managed to break in and get fourth place in that time.

Leicester were favourites for relegation and Claudio Ranieri, whose appointment as manager was greeted with ridicule after his sacking from the Greek national team, was favourite to be the first manager to be sacked (a point he wryly referred to when Leicester became favourites).

I take your point that 5000/1 is long odds, my reference to Elvis was to make the point that you could get the same sort of odds for him being found alive (though not necessarily playing for Stoke City), given their end of season form.

I’d reckon most of the bets were made after the pub on the day they stayed up.

I think Kyle Busch winning the NASCAR championship is the biggest upset of last year.

The guy broke his leg right before the season started, missed the first 11 of the season’s 36 races and yet ended up winning the title.

Jordan Spieth losing to Danny Willett on the back nine of Augusta definitely has to be up there.