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How Ted Lasso'd Our Hearts

Oh wouldst that it could be true. That one man, a simpleton, a Gump for the heart, could preach such old-time values as kindness, empathy, forgiveness, and optimism, and rather than getting run out of town, his message is absorbed and adopted by everyone around him, literally changing the attitudes and behaviors of even the most jaded, cynical, and hateful people in his orbit. It’s a plot that’s too unbelievable for even a fantasy novel, but over the course of four television seasons, it became a story we loved to watch unfold, until every last one of us believed.

I’m speaking, of course, about Ted Lasso, the character and the show, the antidote to all the divisions and misunderstandings in our world. Imagine how our society would be improved if Ted was a Supreme Court justice or President of the United States (or even commissioner of the NFL). What if we all became goldfish and swam happily past our mistakes? What if everyone got a second chance? If villains could be brought low with a single dart? That’s the miracle of Ted Lasso: every redeemable character was redeemed.

Ted Lasso wasn’t all cotton candy and unicorns; there was divorce, disloyalty, abuse, and trauma, all true-life concepts. Every so often, there was a soccer game but its outcome was less important than how it was played and what could be learned from it. Imagine Mister Rogers as a soccer coach (if he could dance and make biscuits). I’m not sure there has ever been a series for adults that pushed such foundational ethical values and was beloved for it.

It’s amazing to think that Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader (Barry) both started at SNL in the same year, became breakout stars and showed their comedic brilliance in subsequent film projects, and then created Emmy-winning TV series at about the same time—and the two shows couldn’t be more different. As sunny and hopeful as Ted Lasso was, Barry was even more dark and nihilistic. About the only similarity is that both Ted and Barry had a son whose future looks to be brighter than his past.

Ted Lasso and Barry were two of my favorite series (there is a BELIEVE sign on our kitchen wall), and now they both are over. I will certainly binge each over the years to relive the high-quality storytelling and mesmerizing performances. It will be interesting to see what Sudeikis and Hader do next, since their portrayals are so deeply ingrained in viewers’ minds and hearts. In the meantime, I would love to believe that those of us who are fans of Ted Lasso, who cried happy tears at each embrace of forgiveness, each encouraging word, each act of caring, trust, and selflessness, could practice those values in our own lives and build a world that we see through Ted’s eyes and feel through Ted’s heart. That is a true fantasy, but one worth working towards and believing in. Because if we don’t, we’re bound to live instead in a world like Barry’s.

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