I used up my allowance of Ted Lasso gushing back in mid-August, and have been pleased ever since to watch the praise roll in from critics and viewers alike. Stuffed with ingredients that could too easily produce something cliche, derivative, or just bad, Apple TV+’s Lasso instead comes off as a surprisingly sweet and eminently watchable. Today, though, I want to get specific and talk about the climactic sports scene in the season finale. I’ve waited a long time to share this with the world, and now, at last, we can die laughing together.
Wisely, the Lasso writers mostly refrained from showing the action on the pitch. It’s famously hard to depict professional sports well on screen, and the shows that don’t completely flub the mechanics tend to cheat by using quick, jarring cuts meant to disguise poor choreography. Even a show as good as Friday Night Lights, when it took to the actual field, was laughable in its execution…at least for any football fan. (Personally, I am cursed to forever remember Landry’s preposterous 46-yard field goal.) For nine episodes, Lasso’s drama largely happened off the pitch, which is no surprise for a show that demonstrated an instinctual knack for avoiding pitfalls.
All of which made the climactic finale so surprising. Not only does the episode dedicate ten minutes to actual soccer (for the record, even as a casual fan I can tell that these scenes are uneven at best), but it culminates in one of the funniest set pieces of sports comedy I’ve ever seen.
Quick background, with spoilers: In order to avoid relegation, Ted Lasso’s AFC Richmond must either beat powerhouse Manchester City or draw with them and get lucky. It looks like mission impossible, and as a football coach by trade, Lasso is ill-equipped to formulate a plan. In an act of optimistic desperation, he decides to mine the brains of his players and assistants for every trick play they’ve ever run. Only by introducing chaos, he reasons, can they hope to stun the visitors. At the end of the brainstorming session, he adds one of his own: The Lasso Special. And that’s the last we hear about it until the match itself.
Just after halftime on the big day, AFC Richmond goes down 1-0 on a Manchester City penalty, and the match remains there until the end of regular time. With only three minutes added on, the crowd and the players soon learn that they only need a draw to avoid being relegated to the second league. That’s when the AFC Richmond captain begins shouting for the “Lasso Special.”
Here’s our first taste of what that play looks like:
Canterbury, Hughes, Winchester, and Bumbercatch (lol @ the names) are positioned like offensive linemen, and already you can see where this is going. As I wrote in my original review, one of the strengths of Lasso is that the writers never tried to convince you that the coach himself becomes any kind of soccer genius. Even in the last match, he doesn’t quite know what offsides means. This is the one time they indulge themselves in a football-soccer crossover, and holy shit is it funny.
Do they milk it? Oh my friends, they milk it. Look at the faces of the Richmond fans watching in a pub when they see the American football formation:
Here’s the full formation, with the keeper playing quarterback:
He even calls an audible!
But the part that killed me, that truly reduced me to fits of laughter in a show that’s more about the story than cracking the viewer up, was when one of the receivers went in motion:
Manchester City are properly confused by the whole thing:
“He’s yelling numbers and codes,” the puzzled announcer says, as the keeper shouts out “Blue, 48! Blue, 48!” When he calls “hike,” the line goes into a pass-blocking scheme…
...and then begin advancing downfield:
The keeper finds the motion man streaking down the right side, who then crosses to the striker for a lovely goal:
And they love it in the pub!
The elation, unfortunately, is short-lived. Manchester City scores at the final moment, AFC Richmond gets relegated, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” borrowed from Liverpool, plays us out.
Still, it was a wonderfully goofy synthesis of two very different athletic perspectives, and a nice encapsulation of Lasso’s impact on his team. And while it is utterly implausible that something like this would ever work in a real soccer match, here it succeeds as comedic television precisely because it’s so outlandish and fun.
When we talk about the funniest sports scenes in TV and movies, Lasso has plenty of competition. There’s the massive fight before the national anthem in Slap Shot, the running drives in Happy Gilmore, or any number of scenes from Caddyshack and Major League, just to name a few. But this one is unexpected, strange, and hilarious enough to stand up there with the best of the best.
Watch on Apple TV+
Shane Ryan is a writer and editor. You can find more of his writing and podcasting at Apocalypse Sports, and follow him on Twitter here .
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