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Welcome to my TED Talk: The “Lasso” effect

“Ted Lasso” Season 3 premieres tonight on AppleTV+, but is the folksy, likable gaffer having a negative effect on how American soccer is perceived? 

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Courtesy Theodore Lasso
If the Lasso way is wrong, it’s hard to imagine being right.
— Trent Crimm, The Independent

“Ted Lasso” is everywhere this week as AppleTV+ officially premieres Season 3 of the popular series today, although it was available online yesterday.

Stars of the show are all over TV, online, and print (does that even exist anymore) pushing the series’ possible final season – and hinting at future character spinoffs. Or not.

And to be honest, I’ve caught the “Lasso” bug. The show’s sports themes, mixed with the characters’ honesty, emotion, humor, optimism, and positivity are an intoxicating mix, capturing the hearts of fans around the world. It’s catnip for soccer fans, and a fabulous gateway drug for newbies to club culture.

My wife, who kindly tolerates my rabid sports enthusiasm in general, is also fond of “Lasso” and makes new-episode appointment viewing every Wednesday night. Finally, something we can watch together that doesn’t involve some kind of zombie mutilation. (Props to “The Last of Us” finale, btw.)

But much like Ted’s bitter falling out with his kitman-turned-assistant-coach Nate, soccer diehards are torn on what effects the fictional series is having on real-world soccer – especially American players and coaches abroad.

Late in February, Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin told The Athletic that it was epically bad timing for former NY Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch to get an opportunity at Premier League side Leeds United at the very moment “Lasso” is red-hot in pop culture.

“Do I think it’s set back the American coach 20 years? Yes, I do. We worked so hard to get to Europe and then Jesse [Marsch] kind of breaks in and it’s like… what a curse to have that show break out at the same time he’s there. You can feel it with [Jesse]. He seems so angry at it but to go back to my earlier point, if you show that they’ll chew you up and spit you out.”

And hey, I get it. For those who play the game professionally, seeing Lasso’s first appearance back in an NBC Sports commercial in 2013, the American football coach making a mockery of the intricacies of soccer was likely very grating.

Just seeing a stereotypical American college football coach struggle with commonplace soccer terms and rules will make a diehard’s brain hurt. And yes, as the show gets distributed worldwide, the Lasso character’s naivete will be unfairly applied to American coaches abroad.

Responding to these criticisms of the show ruining American soccer, Fox Sports’ commentator Alexi Lalas noted that “Ted Lasso” owes no allegiance or responsibility to the game of soccer in America.

Brendan Hunt – “Lasso” show creator and “Coach Beard” actor – believes, in the end, his show will be seen as a “net positive” for US soccer in the end, as the nation is finally starting to embrace “club football” and hopes the interest will expand the sport’s base amongst youth.

“We’re getting into people’s houses,” Hunt said on the ‘State of the Union’ podcast, “That means we’re getting their children. Which means we are deepening the [United States] player pool. And we will be happy!”

So, let’s get those Ted Lasso action figures on the market! They’ve already made FIFA 23, and while the show and its characters may not be the best ambassadors for newcomers to soccer, it’s the best we’ve got at the moment.

And with just 3 years until the world’s biggest soccer tournament comes to America, I don’t expect the “Lasso” legacy to fade away or be deterred.

Just a final note: It appears “Ted Lasso” has even charmed artificial intelligence.

When asking AI textbot ChatGPT how “Lasso” could be hurting American soccer, it outright refused to utter a negative word about the series.

“The show has been credited with bringing attention and interest to soccer in the United States, and for its positive representation of the sport. Furthermore, the show has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy, and Jason Sudeikis, who plays the titular character, won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy.

Therefore, it would be unfair and unfounded to suggest that “Ted Lasso” is hurting American soccer in any way. In fact, the show has been a positive force in promoting the sport and creating greater interest in it.”

I promise this column was not written by AI – probably unfortunately for you.

Corey Clayton (@CoreyClayton on Twitter) is a former sports journalist, podcaster, and newspaper editor, currently a news industry social media exec, a Founding Member STH of New York City FC in Section 110, and a charter member of The Third Rail.