How ‘Ted Lasso’ conquered American football stars, who love the show

Sacha Kljestan played professional football for 16 years on two continents while making 52 appearances for the U.S. national team. He knows the sport.

So last summer, when he saw the premieres of “Ted Lasso”, the Apple TV + series about an American football coach hired to handle the other kind of football in England, he knew what the hell was going on. expect.

“My wife and I were like, ‘It looks so cheesy.’ We’re just not going to watch it, “the Galaxy midfielder recalled.” And we didn’t. “

The boycott lasted for nine months before the Kljestans finally broke under pressure from family and friends.

“We watched the first episode and got hooked,” he said. “It was the best show I watched last year and I can’t wait to see the second season.”

He is not alone. As “Ted Lasso” did with critics, winning the SAG and Golden Globe awards for Jason Sudeikis, one of the show’s creators and star, he did even better with professional football players and coaches. Fans of the show, which returns on Friday, include Dave Sarachan and Gregg Berhalter, the last two coaches of the men’s national team, and Jill Ellis and Vlatko Andonovski, the last two coaches of the women’s national team.

“Jill Ellis? Repeated Brendan Hunt, co-creator and co-star of the series who plays Lasso’s assistant Coach Beard. “Come on. It’s amazing.

“I love it,” replied Ellis, two-time World Cup champion. “It sounds light and whimsical, but there are definitely messages in there.”

Carli Lloyd, two-time World Player of the Year, is taking her first season to Tokyo to attend the Olympics. Lloyd’s Olympic teammate Alex Morgan celebrated a Lasso-inspired goal this season after scoring for Orlando Pride, prompting the Emmy-nominated co-star. Hannah Waddingham will respond to the video on Twitter, “Oh, that’s really cool!”

Sarachan uses it to reaffirm some of his coaching philosophies. Berhalter has promised the men’s national team a special screening of the Season 2 premiere at the Gold Cup.

“Everyone is a huge fan of ‘Ted Lasso’,” he said. “Guys love it. “

The reason is that the series loves them back, with a deep affection and respect for the sport that is embedded in the fabric of the series.

“When you talk about team dynamics and the relationship between coaches and players, senior management and coaches, all of those things are really interesting to watch. “

Gregg Berhalter, United States Men’s National Team Coach and “Ted Lasso” Fan

“There is this absolute love for the sport and its history and its philosophy and its deep complications, both culturally and just strategically,” said Sudeikis, who like Hunt came to football late in life and is now a passionate fan. “This show is as much about football as ‘Rocky’ is about boxing. But we wanted football fans, athletes, football fans to feel that this honors the spirit of this beautiful game. ”

The idea for “Ted Lasso” was born two decades ago in the dressing room of an aging small theater in Amsterdam where Sudeikis and Hunt performed with the improvisation troupe Boom Chicago. Both had come to the Netherlands ambivalent about the sport and its archaic rules, only to be swept away by Amsterdam’s football culture. To cultivate this, Sudeikis bought a PlayStation so that he and Hunt could play the “FIFA” soccer video game after the shows, a practice that turned them both into avid fans.

And since both were comedians, it naturally made them wonder how funny it would be if a clean, sweet-toned Kansas football coach and his loyal but taciturn assistant came to Europe to coach this other guy. of football. Ted Lasso, the character the brainstorming produced, debuted in 2013, in a 4-minute, 41-second promo for NBC’s coverage of the English Premier League. A second, longer promo aired a year later.

It took six more years and a partnership with producer Bill Lawrence, creator of the hit medical comedy “Scrubs,” to transform the characters into a series. It quickly proved to be so popular that it was renewed for two more seasons.

The show centers on Lasso, played by Sudeikis, who is brought to England to handle the struggling AFC Richmond by an owner determined to destroy the franchise. And although the team does not succeed, being relegated from the Premier League to the Second Division championship, Lasso’s overwhelmingly positive attitude and penchant for quoting aphorisms triumph even if the team does not.

Sudeikis, 45, drew many of the broad strokes used to sketch the character from his own athletic background as a playmaker in Kansas, where he was good enough to play against Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. More important, however, is the fact that he played for a man who would serve as the inspiration for Lasso’s style, a Sudeikis called a mix of John Wooden and Mr. Rogers.

“My high school basketball coach Donnie Campbell, who was from a small town in Kansas, spoke like [Lasso] in that kind of familiar phrases. You know, “you’re all more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” said Sudeikis, who supplemented Lasso with things he learned from other coaches, mentors, directors. and teachers he knew.

But as he plays it for a laugh, behind the awkwardness there is a sincerity and authenticity in Lasso’s wisdom that captures even the toughest players. And it quickly became popular – last week’s 20 Emmy nominations set a record for a freshman sitcom.

The strength of the show, Berhalter said, is not football, but everything that is happening around it.

Nick Mohammed, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in “Ted Lasso”.

(Apple TV +)

“I don’t watch the show for what I see on the pitch. That’s not the question, ”he said. “But I think in any sport a lot of team success is what happens in the locker room. And they are absolutely right.

“When you talk about team dynamics and the relationship between coaches and players, senior management and coaches, all of those things are really interesting to watch. “

Sarachan, an assistant for a World Cup team that has coached seven MLS Cup finalists, said he appreciates Lasso’s unconventional, sometimes childish approach, such as when he opens the first season by tying a handwritten sign saying “Believe” above his desk. door. Or when he encourages a player to correct a mistake by advising him to “be a goldfish”, an animal known for its short memory.

“It just reaffirms what I’ve always believed in terms of getting the best out of everyone,” said Sarachan, who has 45 years of coaching experience. “Over the years, there have been instances in a long season where you do something that just wasn’t planned. It takes some of the pressure off. I totally understand.

Amanda Cromwell, the women’s football coach at UCLA, was so inspired by an episode in which Lasso lifts a curse by asking players to throw something of personal importance into a flaming garbage barrel that she made the same with his team.

“I asked UCLA if it was okay to burn stuff on campus,” Cromwell said. “They said, ‘Probably not.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m doing it anyway.’ “

So she brought a trash can from her home, asked her players to write down their fears, then had them throw the notes into the fire in a sort of cleansing ceremony. When asked if this worked as well for her as it did for Lasso, Cromwell replied that she was not sure, but her team won their first Pac-12 championship in seven years and qualified for the third round of the NCAA tournament in the spring. so it didn’t hurt.

Flaming cleansing rituals aside, Kljestan says Lasso reminds him of Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch, who he played with for the New York Red Bulls.

“Marsch has this positivity about him,” Kljestan said. “Not so old-fashioned. But when I looked at this, I thought of Jesse. It makes everyone believe in what they are doing and makes everyone join.

For those who have never been in the locker room, the show draws the curtain a bit, said Seattle Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe.

“There’s definitely some truth to all of this stuff that goes on in the locker room,” said Rowe, who has played 253 games for four MLS clubs. “I won’t give you how much [but] there is certainly a sense of the truth. This is what makes it such a fun show for us gamers to watch.

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