Ted Lasso: “Why Am I Still Here?”

Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso is my spirit animal. I want to be like him when I grow up. Maybe not the mustache and disdain for English tea…

In the third season, which fans have had to wait over a year for, Ted Lasso delivers his son to the airport, and begins to question why he is still in London, as an American football coach challenging English Premier League soccer players on and off the pitch. He misses home; he misses his family. What could keep him putting up with the intricacies of life in London and his local pub mates, one of whom throws him the bird every time they pass in the streets?

The show’s nuances are plentiful, so if you’re new to this, I highly recommend that you return to the first season and begin, just be clear that this is a very adult show. If you haven’t seen the first episode of season three and you dislike spoilers, STOP READING NOW.

“Why am I here?” is a question that at some point, every self-aware human has to ask. But for Ted Lasso, it’s more than that, because to be brutally honest, it’s absolutely bananas that a football coach would transition on the biggest stage to coaching futbol. As a fan of both footballs, I’ll openly admit that I thought the premise of the commercials for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League were ridiculous, but the show’s clever humor won me over. That’s largely thanks to the script and Sudeikis’ wide-eyed portrayal of Lasso as straightforward to the point of gullible and incredibly empathetic nature. That leads me to the two major takeaways from the premiere episode of the season.

Lasso’s club FC Richmond was just promoted from the lower division into the Premier League, a system that allows lower teams to move up and higher teams to be “relegated” to the lower league. [It’s an alien idea to American sports, but it’s fantastic in that it prevents tanking!] What this means for Lasso is that he, his club, and its fans should all be ecstatic because no one imagined that Richmond would make its way up out of the lower division. But success last season is old news, unfortunately, as a solid reminder that we (humans) often forget the good things we’ve seen and done, and that others have accomplished, moving quickly to the dramatic negatives that sell headlines and bump up gossip.

Richmond is predicted to finish dead last in the Premier League, “twentieth because there’s no twenty-first” say some of their opponents. He knows what’s expected; the owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) knows what’s expected; the players know what’s expected. And it’s eating at them before the season even starts. They’re practicing but they’re going through the motions unable to focus. So he takes them on a field trip… to the sewers below London.

In the early nineteenth century, cholera and other diseases were ravaging London, so an intricate series of tunnels and pipes were built to take waste out of the city. [Yes, I Googled it, and it’s true.] Because Lasso’s son was scared of Pennywise from It, they took the London sewer tour to “face his fears,” and now the coach uses it as a way to illustrate for his players what it looks like to let “poop” roll on by instead of being stuck in it. It’s a smelly, on the nose, gag-worthy example, but as simple as it is, it totally works, right? If we focus on what we need to focus on instead of letting other people’s “stuff” stick to us, we’re happier and healthier. As an added bonus, Lasso adds, the team is “the sewer system,” allowing the players to help each get through sticky situations because they’re all connected. What a magnificent, okay maybe not magnificent, illustration of how community should work. We should help each other get rid of … the stuff … that threatens to bog us down, make us sick, and keep us from being who we’re supposed to be.

Later, Coach Lasso is faced with a decision: will he fight fire with fire after a rival West Ham coach Nate Shelley (Nick Mohammed), who used to be his assistant coach and friend, roasts him publicly? Or will he choose a different path?

Friends, if you’ve seen even ten minutes of the show, you know that Lasso doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body, and to the surprise of everyone, he praises everything good about Shelley and makes everyone else feel more comfortable by ripping himself. Live, on television. If you’ve led anything, a team, a company, a church, you’ve faced criticism. Some people expect you to fire back, to get angry, and to tear down the person(s) attacking you. Our American political system and it’s mudslinging serve as a perfect example. Social media, email, and texting have made it even easier to respond immediately, without the relational checkpoints of either face to face conversation or hearing the other person’s response on the phone. We’ve made spouting off our opinion a vicious, non-contact sport.

And yet … Jesus. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus says that God loves the whole world and tells us we’re supposed to serve people and help them, even when they’re ugly and cruel to us. Jesus says we’re supposed to be … more like Jesus. Great lessons, right? But he backed it up in his darkest hours, praying for those nailed to the crosses next to him and to those who nailed him there. And here’s my personal favorite, as he stands trial before the crucifixion (Matthew 27:12-14): “But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. ‘Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?’ Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Jesus didn’t feel the need to respond to things that weren’t true. He didn’t take the time to argue his own defense because he didn’t need defending. He didn’t argue because he knew that he wasn’t going to change their minds. Only love could do that.

Ted Lasso is an AppleTV+ show that’s funny and profane and incredibly insightful. I’m shaking my head today at the profound nature of the story it’s telling, and realizing something kind of crazy and cool.

I struggle as a person of faith to be more like Jesus, but today, I’m want to be more like Ted, and in the process, I might end up a little more like Jesus.

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