But with the next season (and rumored final season) about to start, that got me thinking more deeply about why people who love sports love “Ted Lasso” so much.
Sports types, after all, were the ones who first turned me on to the show. Throughout the fall of 2020, I kept hearing about “Ted Lasso,” which was new then, from a bunch of the writers covering Oklahoma State football. Our own Jacob Unruh was its biggest champion, but there were many conversations about the show between Jacob and Scott Wright, our other OSU writer, as well as Eli Lederman from the Tulsa World and Marshall Scott from Pistols Firing.
I usually rolled my eyes at them because by nature, I’m a trend contrarian. I don’t run out and try to follow every fad, and TV shows are definitely at the top of my avoid list.
For example, I’ve never watched all of “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” or “Game of Thrones.” Think of me what you will, but I’m still living a happy life without having watched those series.
But then in the fall of 2021, there was more “Ted Lasso” talk. The second season was out, and the guys were as fired up as ever.
Eventually, I caved. I decided I’d watch “Ted Lasso” after the football season was over, binging it when I had some time off.
Almost immediately, I was hooked.
All of the characters were great. Trying to rank who’s the best ― Ted? His assistant Coach Beard? Aging star Roy Kent? Young stars Jamie Tartt and Sam Obisanya? Team owner Rebecca Welton? Rebecca’s assistant Higgins? Girlfriend turned PR master Keeley Jones? ― would be an entire column for another day. Each of them, while flawed, was totally lovable and easy to cheer.
There was a depth to the show, too. It isn’t just about sports. It dives into a variety of complex issues, including divorce, isolation, friendships and mental health.
But for sports types, I believe the thing that truly hooks us is the way Ted, played by a mustachioed Jason Sudeikis, coaches AFC Richmond, a fictional team in the English Premier League. He admits early and often to knowing little about soccer.
“I think I literally have a better understanding of who killed Kennedy than what is offside,” he says at one point.
He doesn’t even know all that many of the sport’s top players.
“You got Ronaldo and the fellow who bends it like himself,” he says.
But what he knows is how to treat people. Even though the players, the press and the fans all think he’s an idiot ― if you thought the Indianapolis Colts hiring Jeff Saturday was bad, a Ted Lasso scenario in real life would cause heads to explode ― Ted always responds with kindness. He treats people the way he wants to be treated even when they aren’t reciprocating.
After watching practice for the first time, Ted pulls aside Roy.
“It was real fun watching you out there today,” Ted says. “You know, the boys really respond to you. It doesn’t surprise me, though. You’ve had a heck of a career.”
“Thank you,” Roy responds. “Never thought it would end being coached by Ronald (expletive) McDonald.”
After Roy leaves, Ted looks at Coach Beard.
“He thinks he’s mad now,” Ted says. “Wait till we win him over.”
Ted’s optimism is over the top ― his catchphrase is simple: BELIEVE ― but frankly, the world could use more optimism, not less these days. And positivity in coaching is oftentimes even more fleeting with too many coaches yelling at players, degrading them, even bullying them.
Ted instead sees the good in his players, then tries to get them to see the same in themselves. He even asks around to find out what makes them tick. Jamie, for example, needs positive reinforcement, so when Ted needs to have a difficult conversation with him, the coach makes sure to start with some positivity.
“I haven’t known you that long,” Ted starts, “but I can honestly say you are the best athlete I have ever coached.”
Jamie: “Yeah, I mean, I work hard.”
Ted: “I see it. You are truly great at everything you do out there. … Jamie, I think you might be so sure that you’re one in a million that sometimes you forget that out there, you’re just one of 11. And if you just figure out some way to turn that ‘me’ into ‘us’ … the sky’s the limit for you.”
When Ted sees Sam struggling with failure, letting any little mistake fester, Ted offers a suggestion.
“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is?” he asks Sam. “It’s a goldfish. Y’know why? It’s got a 10-second memory.
Ted buys books for all his players, each one specific to the player with a message that the coach thinks they need to hear. He celebrates their birthdays. He takes an interest in their lives. In short, he cares.
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses,” he says of his coaching philosophy. “It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field. And it ain’t always easy … but neither is growing up without someone believing in you.”
Ted Lasso is the coach we all want to have.
Now, there are lots of great coaches out there. Lots. I’m honored to have gotten to know and write about many of them. I watched one of them this past weekend after some of his athletes won a state basketball title, and even though he coaches them in another sport, no one was more excited for those players. No one hugged them any tighter than he did.
The idea of a Ted Lasso might seem idyllic, but coaches like him are out there. “Ted Lasso” reminds us not only what’s desirable but also what’s possible. It makes us hopeful. It makes us thankful.
It makes us feel good, even better, dare I say, than a handful of Peanut Butter M&Ms.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok, and support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.