Does anyone actually think the Magic of the FA Cup is dead? 6 months ago

Does anyone actually think the Magic of the FA Cup is dead?

Welcome to the Magic™ paradox

"Try telling them the magic of the cup is dead!", we are so often told in early January, after EFL Team X has beaten Premier League Team Y to reach the fourth round. The Magic of the Cup™, we are told, is very much still alive, in spite of what the average viewer might say. But, are these reminders really necessary? Did the consensus really shift that far across that we need to be convinced of its magical essence again? Who decided it had died?

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The root of the Magic™ discourse most likely stems from a need for broadcasters to sell the product. As the Premier League behemoth dominates the airwaves, column inches and the infinite void of social media, the FA Cup is fighting for space in an increasingly crowded media landscape. This is a battle the cup can't win on quality of football alone, so it leans into its USP: upsets, sold in the form of Magic™. Kidderminster might beat West Ham, you know? That could happen.

To do this, a narrative is invented to suggest that football fans have largely decided that the FA Cup no longer provides what it used to. We are, supposedly, not interesting in the cup anymore, because the Premier League is the be all and end all of any team's footballing existence.

I'm not convinced this is the case.

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Increasingly, the supposed death of the Magic™ feels like a myth peddled to convince people they need to breathe that Magic™ back into the cup to prevent it from dying. As if it's the footballing equivalent of that spider plant your mum gave you that you only need to water once a week and yet somehow you still almost let it die.

Looking back at recent seasons, match attendances, my own personal memories, and the general enthusiasm on social media for the tournament, that feels like forcing what is already an organically occurring phenomenon.

Sure, the FA Cup final is no longer the only televised game of the year. True, the TV broadcast doesn't begin at dawn on the bus of the team travelling from Northern Town Z. And admittedly, the league is considered the priority for almost every team in the 92. But not even fans old enough to remember those days would want to go back to that, surely?

Things have changed but the appetite for an upset remains the same. With a peak audience of 9.1 million viewers, Leicester's FA Cup final win over Chelsea last season was the most watched game of the season. People already care, the don't need to be told why they should.

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From a purely anecdotal and entirely personal perspective, my favourite memories of watching Crystal Palace are in the FA Cup. For teams of our stature, it is the best chance of winning a meaningful trophy, and going ahead in the 2016 final provided incomparable joy. I have, just about, forgiven Jesse Lingard.

Perhaps the best example of this Magic™ paradox came at Chorley last season, when their ground staff took the decision to stay overnight underneath a heated tent to make sure the pitch did not freeze. Magic™ rating: 11/10.

That tale of grit and determination just to get the game on was beautifully complemented by a 2-0 win over Derby County, prompting an incredibly wholesome celebration video.

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Chorley FC sing Adele's Someone Like You after FA Cup win against Derby

Chorley are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time ever.

They marked their win over Derby County with a belting rendition of Adele's Someone Like You 👏

Posted by JOE.co.uk on Saturday, January 9, 2021

These are the instances in which commentators and broadsheet writers will remind you that no, you idiot, the Magic of the Cup™ is not dead, if only you'd sit up and pay attention.

But we know that.

Since 2003, excluding the traditional Big Six, the following teams have reached the final: Southampton, Millwall, West Ham, Portsmouth, Cardiff City, Everton, Portsmouth again, Stoke City, Wigan, Hull City, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Watford and Leicester.

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Portsmouth, Wigan and Leicester actually won.

So maybe we should all take a step back and stop reminding each other that the Magic™ is alive. We know, because it never died.