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On Ted Lasso, Ray Wilkins, and things that actually matter

Outrage culture

Chelsea FC v AC Milan: Group E - UEFA Champions League
Ted Lasso cast in attendance at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea vs. AC Milan in October, 2022
Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Ted Lasso, for those unfamiliar, is a harmless little (mostly) feel-good comedy (an occasional light drama) from Apple TV that indulges a fantasy about a clueless American-football coach getting appointed to coach an English football team. It’s an extension from an entirely silly ad campaign that NBC ran way back in 2013 during their first year of Premier League coverage in the United States. I’m not a particularly big fan of it, but many people are (especially in the States), and it works much better than it ever had any right to given those origins.

In the show, Lasso (played by Jason Sudeikis) is in charge of “AFC Richmond”, a fictional team based in the southwest London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, but playing in the colors of Crystal Palace and with Selhurst Park doubling for their home ground. Part of the appeal of the show is their ability to integrate the club into the real life Premier League, with appearances from multiple other clubs, players, pundits, personalities. Also, West Ham United are set up as the villains, which is amusing.

One of the main characters on the show is former Richmond player-turned-coach Roy Kent — clearly inspired by Roy Keane — who is also set up to be a Chelsea legend. In the first two seasons, this was mostly referenced and talked about, but for this current third season, they’ve gone one step further. And perhaps too far, if some of the outrage seen over the past couple days is any indication. (But perhaps that’s just getting outraged for the sake of being outraged.)

In the episode that premiered this week, Richmond, after winning promotion back to the Premier League last season, come to the Bridge to play Chelsea. With real-life Chelsea on international break, the club’s social accounts have engaged in plenty of cross-promotional content for this episode, from pre-match interviews with a wooden Graham Potter to a half-hearted performance from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, to mocking up one of the Shed Wall plaques in Roy Kent’s visage (photoshopping the actor’s head on Juan Mata’s body, but keeping the wording from Chopper Harris’s No.6 plaque). All in good fun, or in cringey embarrassment, depending on your perspective.

But during the episode itself, there’s also a two-second snippet of the Ray Wilkins banner that hangs in the stadium — They Don’t Make Them Like Ray Anymore — which was digitally altered to say “Roy” instead of Ray. Digitally is a key word here (just as with the plaque).

And this has truly blown up on certain sections of Twitter, because we must always be outraged about something.

Outrage, that most Anti-Ted-Lasso-y thing of all things!

That’s not to say that the criticism isn’t entirely invalid.

Changing the banner’s wording could certainly be seen as disrespectful — even if just digitally — especially if those who created the banner in the first place didn’t sign off of it (which evidently they did not).

And it’s fair to assume that Chelsea (whoever that may specifically refer to at the club) signed off on all of this on some level, though it should be noted that the altered footage of the banner is most likely from match footage that’s owned by the Premier League itself, so any such permission would most likely have to come from them.

But blaming the current ownership for it specifically stinks of xenophobia more than anything — that sort of English against American/non-English bias (and vice-versa) has permeated a great many discussions in and around the club lately, be that Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, or the new ownership, and that’s most unfortunate indeed (and I’m trying to crack down on that around this here blog as well).

Todd Boehly himself (?) responded to Spy’s tweet, clarifying that the new ownership did not have any hand in this, and that the deal with Apple was made in early 2022, in the before times.

In fact, if I may add some of my own information on this, which I learned off-hand during my recent #humblebrag visit to Cobham, the scenes that we see in the show were filmed on the very same day that the sanctions against Chelsea and then-owner Roman Abramovich were announced in March of 2022.

The deal with Apple that Boehly referenced was for Chelsea (and Stamford Bridge) to play a much larger role in fact, but the show had to pivot and rewrite following the sanctions — which, in part, led to the multi-month delay in the third season being released.

While I understand why some might consider this disrespectful to Ray Wilkins’ memory, even if I firmly believe it’s truly not that deep, the excess outrage, especially directed at the club’s current ownership, is well misplaced.

Perhaps we can leave the last word to Ray’s son, Ross Wilkins.

“All, this is TV and certainly nothing to do with the new regime. From our perspective, the only thing that matters, is the actual banner, in the stadium where dad gave so much for the club. Thanks for all the support...”

-Ross Wilkins; source: Twitter


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