Ted Lasso tributes to Grant Wahl in S3E4, "Big Week." Ted Lasso tributes to Grant Wahl in S3E4, “Big Week.”

Warning: this post contains slight spoilers for Ted Lasso S3 E4, “Big Week.

The soccer world was shaken last year by the sudden death of American writer Grant Wahl at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Wahl made an incredible impact on the soccer world throughout his time at Sports Illustrated (which also saw him write plenty of other notable stories, including the magazine’s first LeBron James cover story), his writing of books including The Beckham Experiment and Masters of Modern Football, his American Prodigy podcast on Freddy Adu, his regular podcast and Substack work, and his TV appearances for CBS, ESPN, and more.

Wahl also made an impact on the fictional soccer world, specifically the world of Universal Television/WBD Television series Ted Lasso (which airs on Apple TV+). Show co-creators Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt appeared on Wahl’s podcast back in 2020, and he went to Richmond, England (home of the show’s fictional AFC Richmond) for a walking tour with Hunt last fall, including a visit to the pub depicted in the show. He also answered writers’ particular embedded journalism questions ahead of the show’s currently-airing third season. And that led to two tributes to Wahl on Wednesday’s episode, Big Week (the fourth episode of season three). During the show, Hunt’s character Coach Beard (who is often carrying around different famed soccer books) has a copy of The Beckham Experiment. And in the end credits, there’s a salute to Wahl:

Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter has more details on Wahl’s contributions. That included answering writers’ questions about how everyone’s favorite/not-so-favorite journalist Trent Crimm being embedded with the team for a book might work, and how a superstar like Zava coming to Richmond related to the experiences Wahl had covering Beckham when he joined MLS:

Hunt, a co-creator and executive producer of Ted Lasso, told The Hollywood Reporter that Wahl was a fan of the series — and that he helped out the writers as they crafted storylines involving Trent Crimm (James Lance) writing a book about AFC Richmond and the arrival of superstar Zava (Maximilian Osinski) to the team.

“When we knew we were going to have the storyline of Trent embedded with the team, we thought about reporters who’ve done that — John Feinstein came to mind [for his book A Season on the Brink, about Indiana University’s basketball program], and Grant as well. Specifically, because Grant’s book is about football but also about the arrival of a superstar and the change of a culture with David Beckham, we went to him right away.”

As they were starting to break the Zava story, the writers sent Wahl a list of questions about how the arrival of such a larger-than-life figure might affect the team, “hoping he might have time to toss up a few answers,” Hunt said. “In what I now know to be his typical generosity with his time, he wrote very long, very detailed, very valuable answers to all our questions. He was hugely helpful.”

But Ted Lasso was also helpful to Wahl, as he wrote on his blog around that tour of Richmond last year:

After I finished writing my USWNT story on Saturday morning in central London (huge thanks to Gabriele Marcotti and his family for letting me crash at their place again), I took the District Line out to Richmond and met Hunt and his family at their house. If I’m being honest, it had been a hard, heavy week covering the fallout of the Yates Report into systemic abuse in women’s soccer.

Meeting up with Brendan, seeing the actual locations of my favorite Ted Lasso scenes and (most of all) connecting with people who have been so deeply affected by the show brought a lightness that I didn’t realize how much I needed. It was a little like the effect the show itself had on me when I started watching during the pandemic.

This adds to the many tributes to Wahl we’ve seen since his passing in December. And there are still more to come. But it’s cool to see a tribute like this from a show that meant a lot to him, and one where he answered those questions for writers. Wahl’s wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, had a nice Twitter thread on what this meant to her and their family:

This episode has also led to many further media members paying tribute to Wahl, and appreciating the show recognizing him this way. Here are a few of those:

Terry Pratchett once wrote “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” That’s certainly the case for Wahl, and for the impact he made on the soccer and media worlds. And Ted Lasso has now added to those speaking his name, and this tribute may mean people think of Wahl years into the future when watching this show.

[The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today; images from Kelsey Price and Nicole Auerbach on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.