TED LASSO'S SUPERPOWER
Ted Lasso is a television series on Apple+ that came out in April of 2020. Ted is played by Jason Sudeikis who was on Saturday Night Live from 2005 to 2013. His boss is Rebecca, played by Hannah Waddingham who was Septa Unella, the giant sparrow nun from Game of Thrones.
The premise of Ted Lasso is so funky that I put off watching it for about two months. Finally, propelled forward by the (borderline annoying) insistence of my law partner Dr. Jones and the fact that it was mid-COVID and I had watched virtually everything else, I gave it a shot.
As it turned out, I should have listened to Dr. Jones earlier because I was so hooked within the first ten minutes that it was only my preternatural level of self-discipline that kept me from binging it that night. (FACT CHECK—I did binge the first five or so episodes that night but had to wait for the others to drop).
Ted is an American football coach who wins a Division II football championship with Wichita State, but (here’s the funky part) leaves that job to coach the AFC Richmond soccer team in the English Premier League. The reasons behind this unlikely (well, impossible actually) scenario drive the arc of the first season.
Small(ish) spoiler alert here (as it is revealed very early on), but it’s essentially Major League redux. Rebecca became the owner of AFC Richmond through a nasty divorce. She only hires Ted because she wants him to epically fail and destroy the team, which will wreak revenge on her jackass philandering ex-husband, for whom the team is his one and true great love. It's like hiring a heroin addict to be the chauffeur of your husband's cherished Bentley with him locked in the back seat.
Ted has his own reasons for moving from Wichita to London at the height of his football career to coach a game about which he knows virtually nothing. But, as his motivation is not revealed for several episodes, I’m not going to spoil it here. Suffice to say, Ted's motivation makes sense and is a window into the central aspect of Ted’s character—he is a selfless servant for whom coaching is a mission, not a job.
Although Ted seems like a rube at first glance, his personality (and classic Magnum-level mustache) is perfectly suited for his uniquely Abe Lincolnesque leadership style. Unlike the quintessentially intense college football coach, Ted exhibits none of the the hyper-drive of a Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney. Instead, he coaches through self-effacement and country witticisms (all right fellas, you gotta remember your body is like day-old rice. If it ain’t warmed up properly, something real bad could happen).
Rather than capturing his player's attention through aggression and demonstrable competence, Ted disarms them through his relentless decency, slowly gaining their respect and admiration as a man. It Is only later that they realize that he is also highly effective at what he does, which is coaching. By the end of the first season, you believe that Ted could coach the best out of anyone in any sport, even if he knew next to nothing about its rules and could not play the game himself.
WHY IT WORKS FOR ME
Although he eventually grows on people, Ted’s personality initially exacerbates the festering boil of antagonism that he faces upon his arrival in England. The players, the fans, the media and Rebecca (although she hides it in furtherance of her scheme) think he’s an idiot for taking the job and are prepared to hate him like fire ants. But they find that they can’t, at least not for long, as he is able to win them over literally (if that’s what it takes) one person at a time.
Because that is what Ted Lasso does. He is a man who leads people to the better part of themselves simply by assuming that it exists and acting accordingly—even in the face of bitter antipathy and much evidence to the contrary. As hard as they try, people who come into contact with Ted find that they cannot continue hating a man who refuses to stop loving them.
While that may not translate immediately into success on the soccer field, it does evolve (however slowly) into sincere admiration as people begin to look into themselves for that obscured core of goodness that Ted alone seems to see so clearly within them. Ultimately, they begin to act toward Ted in a way that merits his treatment of them. Simply by knowing Ted, the find the best part of themselves.
That’s Ted Lasso’s superpower.