With a cleared throat and mic pulled close, a sound is released.
Sort of like model Elle Macpherson farting into Miles Davis’ trumpet.
“It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” said Arlo White of the precise descriptor given to the soccer commentator by actor Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso character. The 2014 skit featuring the fictional coach and popular play-by-play broadcaster was used as promos for NBC Sports’s English Premier League coverage and evolved into the Emmy nominated “Ted Lasso” series on Apple TV+.
Season 2 — which premiered Friday — opens with White’s velvety call of an AFC Richmond soccer match.
“This stuff has stuck,” said White of the apparent mashup his thick British accent creates for listeners. “Jason has done me an extraordinary favor in my career, I suppose, in making those associations. … I never expected it to be a TV series, not the least as successful as this one. But when they asked me to be a part of it as the announcer playing myself, I was just delighted because it builds off the nice things that he said about me a while ago. It’s certainly done me no harm in my career. And I’m a big Miles Davis fan and huge Elle Macpherson fan and I don’t mind trumpets, either. To have those three things combined to describe my voice, I have no problem with it whatsoever. ”
There is a twist that popped up this week as White began his post as NBC’s play-by-play voice for U.S. women’s national soccer team matches at the Tokyo Olympics. On his Twitter feed, White noticed he’s referenced as the announcer guy from “Ted Lasso” instead of the reverse.
“That’s something that’s very unusual for me, to be primarily known for something other than the job that I do,” White said via phone from Tokyo. “It’s an interesting experience. It adds another dimension to life.”
For longtime Sounders FC fans, White will forever be known as one of the greatest voices to ever call their matches. White said the stint from 2010-2011 is special because it combined two lifelong dreams — working in the U.S. and being a full-time soccer analyst.
White, 48, has had a passion for the sport since he was a lad in his native Leicester, United Kingdom, making his own index cards of English clubs, showing artistic skill in replicating the various shields and depth of knowledge in including the team’s founding, stadium capacity and sponsors.
A friendship with Brian O’Connell, the Seahawks director of broadcasting, helped the Sounders land White. He previously worked for the BBC for nine years where White was the international cricket commentator, called five Super Bowls and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Seattle lost White to NBC when he became the lead MLS commentator then helped the network launch its EPL coverage. Although a 1986 visit to see his great aunt in Chicago is the root of his love of the city and anything Americana, White keeps an eye on the Sounders even while in Tokyo, noting midfielder Reed Baker-Whiting was 4-years-old when White started calling the club’s matches.
Baker-Whiting is one of the five teenagers who made Sounders history Thursday as part of their youngest starting lineup, defeating Austin FC 1-0.
“It’s like they say, once a Sounder, always a Sounder,” White said.
There’s time to watch Sounders matches because of the strict protocols media must follow in order to cover the Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic. White said the NBC team is on a “soft quarantine” where they’re only permitted to leave their hotel rooms for 15 minutes to go to a convenience store in the building. Otherwise the only escape is the drive to cover the USWNT matches.
White fills his downtime taping his new “The Intercontinental Football Show” podcast and submitting voice-overs for “Ted Lasso” (new episodes weekly). The father of twin girls lives alone in England and welcomed the isolation challenges at the Olympics.
The EPL not permitting fans to attend matches due to COVID makes the similar absence of people for the Olympic matches familiar. White is also leaning on his BBC radio days where he’s covered cricket matches when suspected bomb explosions were ignited in the background in Pakistan and the suspicious death of a coach during a tournament in Jamaica required deft journalistic reporting.
“You’re always going to have mixed feelings about whether the Games should be happening in this atmosphere when people’s lives are at stake in Japanese society,” said White, who’s working alongside soccer Olympian Julie Foudy. “I’ve been in some pretty hairy situations in my broadcast career. But I look at the positives and concentrate on the story that I have to tell. There are people that adore the U.S. women’s national team, so we’ll do our best to provide the whole story of their Olympic experience.”
That tale began with White’s call of the USWNT’s 3-0 loss to Sweden in the group stage opener. It snapped a 44-match unbeaten streak for the heavy favorites. White’s buttery voice noted the “very intense looks on their faces to right the wrong” when USWNT took the field for their match against New Zealand on Saturday.
Forward Rose Lavelle, who also plays for OL Reign, brought the excitement when she scored in the 9th minute of the USWNT’s eventual 6-1 win over New Zealand at Saitama Stadium.
“I’m fortunate that my voice is OK; it’s not shrilly and doesn’t upset people,” White said. “These are the experiences that you live for and certainly work for in your career because it takes you out of your comfort zone.”
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