Yesterday, Lincoln City F.C. scored a last-minute header to beat Burnley F.C. in the octofinal round of the F.A. Cup, an annual competition in England for which every single soccer team in the land — from the multimillion-dollar club side to the Sunday amateur pub team — is eligible.
Much of the so-called romance of the F.A. Cup is the theory that any team can win, but it’s a romance ginned up by television, radio, and sponsors trying to focus interest on a match between, as they might say, “chalk and cheese.”
But the last couple of years have been ones in which conventional wisdom — in soccer, politics, and the World Series — have been turned on their heads.
Lincoln City is just the latest sporting upset. To understand how rare their achievement is, consider that the last team outside the main professional group of clubs to make the final eight of the F.A. Cup was in 1914.
The rough equivalent of this in American sports is if, say, a summer wooden-bat league team similar to those found on the Cape Cod League was to make the MLB playoffs.
I’ve always liked to compare the F.A. Cup to the county tournaments in both field hockey and lacrosse in New Jersey. Though the field hockey county tournaments have crowned many repeat championships the last half-decade, the county-tournament in girls’ lacrosse is a relatively new construct, developing its own traditions as well as bracket-busters.
My favorite one to watch, of course, is Mercer County because the capital region’s public, private, and parochial schools all compete for one trophy. Since the first Mercer County girls’ lacrosse tournament in 2007, the trophy has been taken home by one private school, one parochial school, and four different public schools, one of which isn’t even in Mercer County.
And, like in the fall, there will be nine other county tournaments in New Jersey this spring, and each of them will have their own storylines and narrative that are sure to live long in the memory.