‘Ted Lasso’ is a sports series that follows the spirited adventure of an American college football coach who gets recruited as the head trainer of a struggling Premier League football (soccer) team in England. His hilarious attempts to navigate the world of English football amidst loud calls of “wanker” by a large portion of the football-obsessed locals hide a deeper story of perseverance and optimism that the coach slowly but surely injects into everyone around him.
A sports story that’s decidedly different from the usual somber (albeit inspiring) affairs that sports sagas generally are, could a tale this outrageous have any basis in reality? And could someone with no knowledge of the sport come in and coach a professional football team to success, in an environment as competitive as that of English football? Let’s take a look at whether there is any truth in the story of ‘Ted Lasso.’
Is Ted Lasso Based on a True Story?
‘Ted Lasso’ is partially based on a true story. In fact, there are multiple aspects of the show that draw inspiration from real events and people, which are then stitched together with fictional situations to make the inspiring and hilarious tale. Co-created and Co-written by Jason Sudeikis, the show’s incredibly optimistic namesake character takes significant inspiration from Sudeikis’ own high school basketball coach Donnie Campbell.
Much of the folksy wisdom that the fictional coach Ted Lasso drops on his flummoxed team to inspire them is a result of Campbell’s own ritual of starting every practice at Shawnee Mission West High School with a quote. Sudeikis himself reportedly gave a perfect example of the kind of tongue-in-cheek inspirational quotes his high school basketball coach would parse when he recalled the one-liner he heard many times as a kid— “You guys look more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
In addition to Campbell, to fill out the bubbly coach’s overly optimistic (and highly effective) personality, inspiration for the character of Ted Lasso was taken from multiple well-known coaches, including Roy Williams, Pete Carroll, John Wooden (well known for his inspirational quotes), Steve Kerr and many more. The lead character himself predates the show by a few years and was initially introduced by Sudeikis for a 2013 NBC promo for the Premier League.
An instant hit, the actor donned the character of Lasso the next year as well, and the subsequent show even features some of the jokes that were originally part of the promo campaign. Ted Lasso’s boisterous celebration with his American college football team, as seen in the show’s opening episode, seems to be inspired by coach Roy Williams’ very similar-looking celebrations with his team from the University of North Carolina.
Ted Lasso is a layered character that has benefitted from going through multiple reworkings through the two NBC promo campaigns and then for the self-titled show. In this time, he has been honed and taken inspiration from multiple famous coaches to form a kaleidoscopic fictional character who seems impossibly optimistic, and yet genuine. The show and its characters, while fictional, are also inspired by a surprisingly large roster of interesting sports personalities, giving ‘Ted Lasso’ the depth of a real sports story while leaving room for outrageous hijinx that make it so characteristically comedic.
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