James Lance as journalist Trent Crimm on Apple TV+'s 'Ted Lasso.' He is a white man with thick, chin-length wavy brown hair. He's walking down a hallway in the locker room area of a sports arena wearing a brown, tweed blazer, a green buttondown, and a maroon tie. A yellow lanyard hangs around his neck, and he has a bag hanging from his shoulder by a brown strap. He's waving and giving a closed-mouthed smile to someone.

Why ‘Ted Lasso’s Tribute to the Real-Life Inspiration for Trent Crimm Was So Moving

"It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe .."

At the end of this week’s Ted Lasso, you may have noticed a title card that read “In memory of Grant Wahl.” If you’re into sports outside of Apple TV+ shows, you may have already known the significance.

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If not, you might be interested to know that Wahl was not only at least partly the inspiration for, but he also helped shape fan-favorite character, “Trent Crimm, The Independent” (played by James Lance). Wahl himself was a well-respected, American sports journalist—and he died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup last year.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, this week’s episode of Ted Lasso, “Big Week,” was originally filmed simply to contain an Easter egg nodding to Wahl. In one scene, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) is holding a copy of Wahl’s book The Beckham Experiment, about David Beckham’s decision to go from top European football leagues to playing for the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer in the U.S.

However, by the time Season 3 was set to drop on Apple TV+, the episode had become a tribute to the late Wahl, who died in December 2022.

What was Grant Wahl’s connection to Ted Lasso?

Image of Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard on Apple TV+'s 'Ted Lasso.' He is a white man with a red beard wearing a flat cap hat, a red jacket, and a blue plaid buttondown. He's holding a book: 'The Beckham Experiment' by Grant Wahl as he stands in his office in the Richmond locker room.
(Apple TV+)

This season of Ted Lasso centers around the arrival of superstar player, Zava (Maximilian Osinski), to Richmond after having played for some of the best teams in the league (and tarnishing those relationships with diva behavior).

It also centers around the arrival of Trent Crimm, no longer of The Independent but now a sports writer interested in writing a book about Richmond, Zava’s arrival, and the team’s evolution. Just like Crimm, Wahl once embedded himself with a soccer team to get the inside story for a book about the experience.

Brendan Hunt, who is a writer/producer on the show in addition to playing Coach Beard, told THR:

“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.”

He goes on to say that when they started developing the Zava story, and reached out to Wahl with questions, went above and beyond, being generous with his time and “[i]n 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.”

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Remembering Wahl

Grant Wahl, like Ted Lasso himself Jason Sudeikis, grew up in the Kansas City area. One can imagine he appreciated a “hometown boy” like Wahl being able to contribute to the show in this way.

Meanwhile, Hunt remembers Wahl fondly as he reminisced about spending time with Wahl while he was in town covering a football match between the U.S. Women’s national team and England. He told THR:

“On his way to the airport he came to Richmond. He came to my house, he met my family, I showed him around Richmond and we had a fucking great day talking about football. Like everyone, we were all shocked and affected by his loss. To carry on the train of salutes to his memory was something we felt obligated to do.”

Wahl’s widow, Céline Gounder, was touched by “Big Week,” and showed her appreciation on Twitter:

She went on to outline the parallels her late husband brought to the show:

I’m not a sports person, so I wasn’t familiar with Wahl before this week’s Ted Lasso episode. However, I am a writer, and one of the best things about telling stories is having the opportunity to learn more about all sorts of topics and communities with which you might be unfamiliar but might be fertile environments for stories.

Help and perspective from experts like Grant Wahl provide a richness and authenticity in storytelling that writers couldn’t provide on their own. I’m grateful for the relationship between Wahl and the Ted Lasso team, which has so far created a compelling season of television.

I’m also moved by the show’s acknowledgment of him in their tribute which, in addition to honoring him, allows people like me to become familiar with his work who might not have been already. The Beckham Experiment sounds like a fascinating read. I don’t follow sports, but I’m generally fascinated by the psychology of people in high-profile careers and their fans.

I might just have to check this book out and absorb the perspective an expert like Wahl provides.

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.