(Note: There are minor spoilers ahead)
If you haven’t seen it yet, the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso is a must watch for footy fans. It’s based on the character Jason Sudeikis created to help launch NBC’s coverage of the Premier League back in 2013. Lasso, played by Sudeikis, is a happy-go-lucky college football coach from the United States brought in to manage a fictional, mid-table Premier League side in London called AFC Richmond.
In the original commercials, Lasso was funny, but pretty one dimensional. He was kind of a buffoon, and the jokes were all based on a gridiron coach knowing nothing about the world’s game. There’s still a bit of that in the series, but the plot is more complex, and the characters—especially Lasso—are much deeper. Apple TV+ posts a new episode every Friday. We’re now six episodes in (of ten total), and the show has been great thus far.
It may be a Premier League show, but there are a couple things that make this series very relatable for Chicago Fire fans. One is obvious—Arlo White is the man behind the mic calling AFC Richmond’s matches. White is, not surprisingly, very good at the job.
The second connection is a bit more subtle. Lasso is a brand new coach from a foreign country tasked with protecting Richmond from relegation. At a news conference in the first episode, Lasso is grilled by the press—Is this a joke? How are you the man to turn this team around?
In episode three, Lasso is shadowed by a print journalist named Trent Crimm (played by actor James Lance), who is profiling him for an upcoming piece. Crimm is skeptical, for sure, and he had been one of the journalists questioning the Lasso hiring the loudest. Despite the risk of being humiliated in a newspaper story, Lasso agreed to go along with the profile. In the end, Crimm writes, “And though I believe Ted Lasso will fail here, and Richmond will suffer the embarrassment of relegation, I won’t gloat when it happens, because I can’t help but root for him.”
I have a similar feeling when I cover Fire Head Coach Raphael Wicky. As a former holding midfielder in the Bundesliga—and internationally for Switzerland—he has a far greater soccer IQ than Lasso, that’s for sure. Unlike Crimm with Lasso, I’m not predicting Wicky will fail in Chicago—I honestly don’t know. But, like Crimm, I know I really want Wicky to succeed, because he seems like a genuinely good person.
I’ve profiled Wicky a couple times—once we talked about his coaching style, and the other time we looked back at his playing career. I’ve talked to him after training, pestering him for updates on players, and he’s always been generous with his time. But, it’s the post-match conversations where he really shows his character. After this season’s five Fire losses, Wicky has always answered questions directly and honestly. Even after the worst losses, he still faces tough questions head on, never making reporters feel like we’re troubling him. Major League Soccer rules require him to make time for media. He could just jump on the Zoom call, grumble a little bit, and leave. But he always answers questions with class. He’s kind and tries to find positives, even when he could be a negative jerk.
It’s easy to forget that the coaches and players at our favorite teams are real human beings—trust me, as an Arsenal fan, I’m very guilty of this sometimes. But we have to remember that everything is far more complex than “they’re great” or “they suck” or “he’s a genius” or “he’s an idiot.”
I don’t know if Raphael Wicky will succeed as head coach of the Chicago Fire. The club’s last decade suggests he won’t, but the new owner, Joe Mansueto, seems interested in turning the team around quickly. I know this, though: I’ll be rooting for Wicky every step of the way. The path will be bumpy, for sure. But as Lasso says, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”