KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the hit Apple TV+ show “Ted Lasso,” the coach asks his soccer team: “Do you believe in miracles?”
For designer and business owner Brendan Curran, seeing the T-shirts he created appear over and over on the show was no miracle. It was just a matter of friends looking out for each other.
Curran is old friends with the show’s creator and star, Jason Sudeikis, who grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. Sudeikis plays an American football coach who’s hired to coach a British soccer club and fumbles repeatedly as he attempts to learn the game. Ted Lasso began as a character in promotional shorts for NBC Sports’ British Premier League soccer coverage, but Sudeikis expanded the concept into a fully formed character and series that has drawn large audiences and critical acclaim.
In the first episode, Ted wears a shirt reading “JoeArthur Gatestack,” a mashup of local joints Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s), Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, Gates Bar-B-Q and Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. It was one of the first designs Curran made for his business, Three KC.
The “three” in the name represents what Curran considers the “three kings of Kansas City”: ‘cue, crown and arrow. Or, in other words, barbecue, the Royals and the Chiefs. They’re KC’s great prides, Curran says, and his pride is in KC.
“I love living in Kansas City. I wasn’t born here, but I’ve lived here since I was 8,” said Curran, who lives in Lenexa. “And the relationships I’ve had with my friends and my wife and all that — Kansas City is a huge part of that.”
The character Ted Lasso, like Sudeikis and Curran, hails from the Kansas City suburbs, the Kansas side. He comes to the U.K. after coaching the fictional Wichita State football team.
The show is rife with references to Kansas City, including a mention of his grade school, Brookridge Elementary, a shot of Arthur Bryant’s as Ted’s computer background photo, and a bottle of Bryant’s sauce, to name a few.
“I can tell you already, everybody from Kansas City he’s giving shoutouts to is super happy because it’s never empty,” executive producer Bill Lawrence said last August, ahead of the series debut. “It’s always stuff he truly is a monster fan of to begin with.”
That’s certainly true for Curran.
LASSO MEETS GATESTACK
Curran and Sudeikis met in eighth grade, when their basketball teams played each other. Sudeikis went to Holy Cross Catholic School, where Curran attended church, and they became friends. They ended up on the same basketball team in their last two years together at Shawnee Mission West High School.
They stayed in touch after that, as Sudeikis launched his career on “Saturday Night Live” and Curran began teaching high school — currently he teaches statistics and digital design at Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Sudeikis not only wore the JoeArthur Gatestack shirt, he inspired it.
During the 2014 Big Slick Celebrity Weekend fundraiser, an interviewer asked Sudeikis, along with co-hosts Paul Rudd and Rob Riggle, to name their favorite barbecue places. Sudeikis’ response? “Oklahoma Gates. Arthur Oklahoma Gates.”
“Arthur Oklahoma Gates Stack,” Rudd riffed.
“That was kind of the idea of doing a mashup,” Curran said. “I went with the Mount Rushmore of Kansas City barbecue for the mashup, but it really stemmed from that response I thought was pretty funny.”
Curran nailed Sudeikis’ original joke, the actor said last year.
“As a person that gets asked the question, what’s your favorite barbecue place? It’s a tough question. It’s as tough as being asked what football club you support in the U.K. I mean, you can accidentally start a fight that you did not see coming,” Sudeikis said. “And so that shirt is probably the best version of my answer for the last 15 years.”
In 2019, Curran gave his friend one of the first prints of the shirt, which Sudeikis wore to that year’s Big Slick auction. Then Sudeikis took one with him to London and wore it again — this time on the set of his new show.
SIGNING A WAIVER
“He just brought it on set and actually wore it, and they were like, ‘You’re not allowed to wear that,’” Curran said. “So they sent me a waiver and all that, which I gladly signed, and I sent a few other things out there to him.”
Still, the crew warned Curran that with the nature of shoots and re-shoots for shows, there was no guarantee he’d actually see his design. So when he began watching the series and saw the shirt, he “was pretty stoked.”
“You know, I’ve gotten used to seeing my friend on TV. But seeing him wear one of my designs was pretty surreal,” Curran said. “Even though I was teaching a digital design class in high school, I’ve never taken a graphic design class or an art class or any of that. It’s really just something I enjoy doing on the side that became a little bit more than a hobby. So, yeah, it was pretty surreal to see it on an Apple TV show.”
Sudeikis wore another one of Curran’s shirts in episode five, and another in episode 10 — this time, a KU-ified version of the Three KC logo with the hint of a Jayhawk.
Curran said he sent a few more shirts to the costume department in preparation for season two, but he’s not sure whether any will make the final cut.
“If they do show up, awesome, and if they don’t, that’s OK, too,” he said.
ON THE RISE
The show gained in popularity throughout its first season. Entertainment Weekly called it “a wonderfully amusing, surprisingly thoughtful sports sitcom that is, of course, not really about sports at all.” Sudeikis won a series of awards this year: a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, Writers Guild Awards. And last week the show was nominated for 20 Emmy awards — a record for a comedy series in its first season.
Through it all, Curran’s business boomed.
“It’s gone from a side hustle to a really good side hustle. The first year I started Three KC, I felt like a lot of the orders I was seeing oftentimes, I would recognize the names of people I knew, whether it was friends or family, starting to buy stuff,” he said. “Once it hit ‘Ted Lasso,’ that obviously completely changed.”
With Sudeikis’ encouragement, he also started selling “Ted Lasso”-inspired shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts featuring elements of the show like Ted’s iconic bushy mustache, the biscuits he bakes that win over his boss, and the “BELIEVE” sign he hangs over the locker room door.
Those are in short supply right now — Curran reports that the Canadian players in town for Gold Cup matches at Children’s Mercy Park bought up most of the “Ted Lasso” shirts over the weekend. The shirts should be available in local stores again by next week.
All in all, Curran said, “it’s been a blast.”
“It’s been so fun for me,” Curran said. “Just the fact that (the business) is something I came up with on my own, and I have been able to make a go at it, that’s what’s most fun for me.”