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Nicolais: Ted Lasso would be proud of Denver’s British Bulldog community

As the TV series demonstrates, soccer is just the backdrop for the sweeter treat of forming a vibrant supporter culture

This year’s hit Halloween costumes have revolved around the feel-good soccer show Ted Lasso. Take your pick from Coach Lasso himself to Coach Beard or Rebecca Welton. Couples going as Keeley Jones and Roy Kent. Shoot, even U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney and Krysten Sinema got in on the act. 

Even Jose Mourinho is rumored to have gone trick-or-treating as Nate the (Not So) Great. Or is it the other way around?

Not only has the show won all the awards, but the hearts of viewers across the globe. Even in soccer-heathen backwater countries such as ours. The actual soccer is nominal — not even close to as authentic as the oblong-pigskin-ball played in Friday Night Lights — and serves only as a backdrop for the people and relationships to revolve around.

Mario Nicolais

That seems about right. It is exactly what I have witnessed over more than a decade watching soccer at The British Bulldog, my favorite pub and the beating heart of soccer in Denver.

More than the soccer, it is the people who make the experience a staple in my life. The bar is a gathering place for folks from disparate backgrounds to band together and support their teams until their voices give out.

Over the years, that has led me to join the American Outlaws (U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams), the Rocky Mount Blues (Chelsea), and the now defunct Bulldog Supporters Group (Colorado Rapids). With the people I met through these groups, I have traveled to other cities to see our teams play, cheered World Cup accomplishments, and eaten many, many meals along the way. We drank a few beers, too.

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Together we sat outside the Bulldog at 5:30 a.m. in the dead of winter waiting for it to open for an early Chelsea match, which it does, unlike other alleged “soccer pubs” in the city. 

We played soccer in the street fronting the building when the city had cordoned it off for the 2010 USA-England World Cup match. 

We hosted multiple soccer players, pundits and luminaries who dropped in to join us. A couple years ago my stepdaughter and I watched Denver’s Mallory Pugh play in a World Cup and cheered alongside Pugh’s father.

And we showed up at an alternate, outside venue when the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to close our sacred bar permanently. Thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of its general manager, the Bulldog survived.

I guarantee there is no sporting experience in Colorado akin to watching a Chelsea match when the RMB’s are in full song. As if to prove the point, at the end of September about 20 of us went to a Rockies game and sat just above the visitor’s bullpen in centerfield where we spent nine innings adapting our normal songs and chants to the game in front of us. 

It seemed Garrett Hampson has never heard such a raucous assemblage and tipped his cap to us as we sang “He’s our number one! He’s our number one! Garrett Hampson, he’s our number one!!!” (his jersey number is “1”). The Giants centerfielder did not seem so appreciative as we belted out “Down to the minors! You’re going down to the minors!”

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We sang and we drank and we ate and we laughed. And when the game was over, we walked back to the Bulldog.

This weekend there will almost certainly be several Lasso-costumed customers milling about the Bulldog as if it were Ted Lasso’s Crown & Anchor. Any newcomers may think that it is some wicked trick as the rest of us serenade our bartender and general manager, “Queen Samantha,” who will work her last shift on Sunday.

What they will really be seeing is the treat the screenwriters for Ted Lasso captured so well over the past two years; it is not as much about the game as it is about the community of people you watch with. 

At the British Bulldog, that is a sweet treat.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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