If you haven’t watched “Ted Lasso,” you’re missing The Lasso Way.
The popular sports comedy has a heart bigger than Kansas, the state that gave us Ted Lasso and the actor who plays him.
My recommendation comes with a warning. You have to navigate a minefield of F-bombs in every episode, but it’s worth it. The show received 20 Emmy nominations, the most ever for a first-season comedy show. The second season is streaming on Apple TV+.
The basic premise is this: Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, is asked to manage AFC Richmond, a premier league English football club – soccer to us – after he won a Division 2 national football title.
Ted has no experience with soccer or England. He doesn’t fit in. He sports a mustache that went out of style with the Village People.
England leaves him befuddled.
When he’s asked, “How do you take your tea?”
He says, “Usually right back to the counter.”
He calls it pigeon sweat.
Ted quickly learns that cookies are called biscuits. The grass is the pitch. Practice is called training. And in English football, you can actually end the game in a tie.
It doesn’t matter to Ted. Winning isn’t his goal. His mission isn’t to win the game. It’s to win over hearts and minds.
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses,” he says. “It’s about helping these young fellas be the best version of themselves on and off the field.”
The fans hate him. The owner mocks him. The wife back home can’t take his endless optimism.
Ted is awkward in the local pub but he’s at home in a locker room.
“I do love a locker room,” he says. “Smells like potential.”
He tapes one word up above his door. Believe. He says, “I believe in hope. I believe in belief.”
At first, it’s a bit like the movie, “Major League.” The owner wants the team to fail miserably. But to Ted, “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”
He possesses a can-do spirit in a can’t-do world.
“Beating yourself up is like Woody Allen playing the clarinet,” he tells his players. “I don’t want to hear it. Go easy on yourself.”
He tells them, “Our goal is to go out like Willie Nelson, on a high.”
He’s annoyingly happy. He’s a golly gee, Howdy Doody kinda guy who raps on the door and says, “Knock-a-doodle-doo!” But he’s no dope. He quotes Socrates and hands out classics as gifts to every player.
The show gives basic kindness a boost of rocket fuel. You come away believing, “Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing.”
Next to Ted, you fall for team captain Roy Kent, played by Brett Goldstein. Goldstein, the British Jewish actor, is like Oscar the Grouch, and furious that he’s being coached by a human puppy. Roy evolves from a gruff man who communicates in grunts and glares to a softy who takes his little niece shopping for dolls, reads aloud to her in bed and does yoga with women in their 60s.
Ted knows how to handle Roy. “You know what you do with tough cookies? Dip ’em in milk.”
Ted tells his players, “You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish.”
Then there’s coach Beard, who navigates love with chessboard moves. Owner Rebecca Welton is bold and beautiful, but struggles to be brave enough to let someone love her. And Leslie Higgins, played by Jeremy Swift, director of something.
Higgins is the only one in a stable marriage. He says, “If you’re with the right person, even the bad times are easy.”
Mexican player Dani Rojas constantly tells us, “Football is life!” until, sadly, one day it isn’t, and then it is again, with the help of a sports psychologist.
You even learn to love the cocky Jamie Tartt, the top scorer who wears a cap that says ICON. He looks baffled when Ted tells him, “I think that you might be so sure that you’re one in a million, that sometimes you forget out there, you’re just one of eleven.”
“Figure out some way to turn that ‘me’ into ‘us’, the sky’s the limit for you.”
It looks like the sky is the limit for the show. Give it a chance.
“Be curious, not judgmental.”
That’s Ted Lasso, quoting Walt Whitman.