It’s that time of year (again) where we’re supposed to give a care about football that, for the most part, the players involved don’t seem to care about – at least the ones we see on a regular basis.
I’m not talking about international week (although as a City fan, I do want the Ivory Coast to flame out of the African Cup of Nations as soon as possible). I’m talking about the Football Association Cup, or as the FA would have you believe, the oldest, most prestigious competition in all of England™.
I don’t want to take away any credit from Bradford and Middlesbrough, who both fully earned their wins. But how much did Chelsea and Manchester City really care when they’re facing each other in a game next week that will have massive implications on the title chase? Sure winning a trophy is nice, and City and Chelsea have each won it in the last five seasons, but it’s a lot of time and energy for a trophy that loses some of its luster if not accompanied by the Premier League trophy. For the top teams, winning the FA Cup is seen as a success, but is not the main goal for a season. A team will set out to win the double or the treble that includes the FA Cup, but never the FA Cup alone. Winning the Premier League carries vastly more weight than the FA Cup.
But Chelsea and City are only two teams out of the staggering 736 that play at least one match in the tournament. And where the big teams fall because they don’t really care that much, the smaller teams rise because they care so much.
This is the closest another sport comes to the greatness of March Madness. They have their fair share of differences but they both regularly produce the excitement and fun of a huge upset. We saw 2.5 major upsets yesterday with Middlesbrough beating Manchester City at home, Bradford beating Chelsea at home and Leicester beating Tottenham at home. (Tottenham losing can never really be considered that much of an upset regardless of how good they are, this is why they’re the .5.) Two days ago we saw mighty Cambridge United draw with Manchester United.
Those kind of results are just as much fun as seeing #15 Norfolk State beat #2 Missouri in 2012, #15 Lehigh beating Duke is 2012 or #14 Mercer beating #3 Duke in 2014. People enjoy to take the piss out of #TheMagicOfTheFACup and sometimes it’s deserved, but I don’t see how you don’t enjoy it as a neutral when things like that happen.
It’s understandable that a fan of a City or Chelsea might not care that much about the FA Cup. And if you’re a neutral observer, I can’t fault you for not really caring about the FA Cup either. But things like Chelsea 2-4 Bradford and City 0-2 Middlesbrough are really neat to see. It gives their fans a memory that will stick with them a lifetime, and puts them that much closer to winning a trophy that would still mean a lot to that club’s players, fans, manager, board, etc.
I guess what I’m saying is that the FA Cup isn’t as great as the league, but it’s not as bad people think.