Commentary: Why ‘Ted Lasso’ is more than a Golden Globe winner, but a tonic for our trying times
I got my blue AFC Richmond shirt in the mail the other day. It’s just like the one Roy Kent wears.
Now it’s probably helpful to mention here that neither AFC Richmond nor Roy Kent are real. Richmond is a fictional team and Kent the team’s fictional captain in “Ted Lasso,” the Apple TV+ series about an American football coach — that’s tackle football — who is given charge of a team in the English Premier League.
Still, I can’t wear the shirt out of the house without drawing notice and smiles. It immediately brightens people’s day, like a cute puppy or a great parking space.
Fiction, it turns out, can be real if you want it to be real. And in the 6½ months since “Ted Lasso” debuted, we have very much needed the show and its message and its title character to be real.
Jason Sudeikis, who won a Golden Globe for his role in “Ted Lasso,” lit up the internet with buzz about his acceptance speech and casual appearance.
“Ted Lasso,” to be clear, is definitely not a musical. And it’s not really a comedy either since it contains more lessons than laughs. Think of it as a comedy-drama, something Sudeikis calls a “com-ma,” and think of the title character more as a life coach than a soccer coach.
Sudeikis defines Lasso as a cross between John Wooden and Mister Rogers. He has the wisdom and strength of the former UCLA basketball legend and the relentless optimism and indefatigability of the children’s TV host. All that in a satirical character he and friend Brendan Hunt, who plays Lasso’s sidekick Coach Beard, created during long nights together with an improv troupe in Amsterdam.
Who knew Ted Lasso would become the perfect tonic for times were are now living through?
But it takes wisdom and strength to get through a global pandemic that has kept us sheltered in our own homes while family, friends and loved ones have become infected. Or died.
And it takes optimism and indefatigability to stay hopeful through a summer of racial tension, an election that split the country in two and a mob attack that disfigured the center of our democracy.
“I get nervous to say it because it sounds grandiose. Particularly in the troubled times that we are. But what Ted is doing is kind of teaching [us] to look out for each other and to be present,” Brett Goldstein, the British actor who plays Kent, told me after taping for the first season finished.
If AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Lakers star LeBron James should stick to sports and avoid politics, how can he say Muhammad Ali is his idol?
It may not be a show for all times but it’s definitely a show for these times. Consider Ted Lasso’s response when he is asked if he believes in ghosts.
“I do,’ he says in episode one. “But more importantly, I think they need to believe in themselves.”
There is no hope without faith for Ted Lasso, who believes every black cloud has a silver lining and every storm is just the opening act for the spectacular rainbow he is sure will follow. In fact, the first thing the new coach does when he gets to the AFC Richmond locker room is tape up a sign that reads “Believe.”
“He’s the best version of what we should be, right? The sort of person that we should aspire to,” Goldstein said. “But most people, including myself, struggle with being like that on a daily basis.”
So it was in keeping with the character that Sudeikis, who is only slightly less idealistic than the character he portrays, would turn Sunday’s Golden Globes into a teaching moment by referencing Leo Tolstoy’s “Three Questions,” a parable he said he is reading to his 6-year-old son.
“In my humble opinion the best actor is the person you are acting with,” he said in an acceptance speech Ted Lasso could just as easily have given.
Eventually the pandemic will ease, if not end. Restaurants and playhouses and ballparks will reopen, but will it ever really feel normal again?
Ted Lasso has some advice about how to put those bad memories aside too. In the show’s second episode, when Sam Obisanya, a timid defender from Nigeria, makes a horrible blunder in training, the coach calls him over for a pep talk.
“Do you know what the happiest animal on earth is?” Lasso asks. “A goldfish. “It’s got a 10-second memory.
“Be a goldfish Sam.”
Good advice we can all follow.
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