Countries go out of their way to motivate their fan bases and players whenever the World Cup is coming up. From big, elaborate squad announcements to viral ads and more, these stunts are all about making sure the fans connect with these players and this team, garner support from them, and give the players an extra boost by supporting them remember who they represent and see that support.
The United States men’s national team decided to do this by buying space on several billboards and writing messages to several players addressed to them by the fictional do-gooder and football coach Ted Lasso. Yes, the American mustache guy.
— United States Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 13, 2022
The messages, placed in the hometowns of various USMNT players en route to the World Cup, are written in Lasso’s voice, complete with a Comic Sans-like font to match Lasso’s general disposition, and phrases such as “The only bean that’s too big to fit nose up” and “Best Greggards”. At this point, a few have been found in different corners of the United States, all individually congratulating USMNT players on their achievement.
We just have one big question about these billboards: who exactly are they for?
Do you congratulate the players? Do you think that’s really cool? When Matt Turner reads a big sign in New Jersey about how Ted Lasso (who, again, isn’t a real guy!) “got really good at aiming cookies in my face hole,” is that really going to cheer him up? Will he go into the game against Wales with nothing but pure shot-stopping energy coursing through his veins because someone hung that sign on the side of a Park Ridge shopping mall? How many DMs and SMS will Luca de la Torre receive over the rest of his life ending with “Best of Luca”?
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There is also a possibility that the billboards are more for the fans and are trying to garner some non-traditional football support for the USMNT players by making their connections within their communities. For example, I suppose the majority of Chicagoans don’t know who Gregg Berhalter is. At the very least, littering a billboard with as many Gs as possible might get a few people to google the guy.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t feel like the billboards really succeed in cheering up the team or the fans. The only thing they’re successfully marketing is an Apple TV show that has a third and most likely final season to promote. Like most things with Lasso, this campaign will most likely be done with a decent level of sincerity. Star Jason Sudeikis and his right-hand man Brendan Hunt spent their lasso heyday attending many soccer games around the country and appear to have a genuine appreciation for the sport as well as their fan base for United States teams. But as with most lasso stuff, it’s still a show. And the show needs to make money.
The whole project is corny at best and cynical at worst, which Ted Lasso feels appropriate at this point. The show is fun, and the author of this play rightfully enjoyed a lot of it. The writing is funny and the performances are solid, but much like most shows and movements that achieve a certain level of one-sided popularity, the lasso-fixing of all football in the United States has become its own breed of trouble. A character originally played as a joke about how Americans know nothing about soccer gets his own show, part of which involves him learning about soccer and then becoming the de facto brand of the actual, real-life USA men’s soccer team becomes a parody beyond what the writers of the original Ted Lasso commercial could have dreamed up.
Perhaps the posters signal an end to America’s football obsession with being taken seriously as a country that is knowledgeable and “decent” when it comes to “soccer nations.” If that’s the case, it’s a welcome sight. Most of us still call it soccer. We have crazy club names compared to many other countries around the world. We like to have fun. That’s all right.
But it’s difficult to see the Ted Lasso billboards and do anything but flinch. We’re talking about the World Cup here. Regardless of whether Americans want to be “taken seriously” on an individual level, everyone wants to win. The tournament has an intensity that few others can even come close to matching, and getting a message from Ted Lasso on a billboard in your hometown just doesn’t add up. The odds of the USMNT being eliminated in the group stage and Twitter (if it still exists) lighting up with tweets containing the word “Gregggcellent” seems astronomically high.
Hopefully American players can take the billboards at face value and move like any professional athlete should. Goldfish mentality, as Lasso would say. However, they have to take a lot of jokes. Hopefully the World Cup performance was worth the mustache price.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-toe-poke/story/4803210/ted-lasso-sends-off-usmnt-with-billboards-written-to-players Ted Lasso sends off USMNT with billboards written to players