Ted Lasso’s Lessons for Life

Don’t look at me like that – if you’d paid attention you would have known this was coming.

Apple TV+ launched in 2019 to little fanfare and a small library of originals. Some good stuff (The Morning Show/Morning Wars, Come From Away); some not so good stuff (Mr Corman)…and then in August 2020 actors and creators Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt gifted us the story of Ted Lasso.

In short, an English woman takes a Premier League football team (AFC Richmond) in an acrimonious divorce settlement from her husband, and hires a US mid-western college NFL coach (Ted, played by Sudeikis) to coach the team and run it into the ground. But that doesn’t happen.

Instead, Ted and his assistant Coach Beard (Hunt) land on British soil as the original fish out of water and proceed to find value in every person they encounter. The team, the ground staff, the player’s wives and girlfriends, the team management, and even the owner Rebecca (2021 Emmy winner Hannah Waddingham).

It’s not an immediate process. There are barriers to break down, and when you’re going to be a person who values other people you’ll encounter a lot of resistance because people think it’s a performance to try to manipulate them, or they’re straight up skeptical (we’ve all been hurt before).

The journey is bumpy. Along the way Ted helps people see that they are worthwhile and deserve to be loved as they are. It’s an intriguing lesson set in the world of high-performance sport where everything must be better and value is found in micro-improvements. What an amazing juxtaposition.

Season one was a triumph of Ted getting under everyone’s skin and seeing attitudes towards him and others change. The effect of people being valued changed their attitudes so that it rippled outwards, and it was truly joyous.

In season two they’ve continued however acknowledged that Ted doesn’t have some kind of super power. He’s been hurt deeply, and he’s carried that pain for some time. The show’s themes of mental health, relationships, and even death and grief have been close to the surface, and the writer’s room has handled these ideas deftly and with Lasso-esque class. (Just be warned – there is an amount of fruity language at times, particularly from everyone’s favourite ageing footballer Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein)…it’s all contextual.)

Critically, Ted Lasso isn’t going to save anyone. Ted’s humanistic approach is lovely, however it comes out of his experience and energy solely. It is delightful though it is not the gospel.

Where Ted is motivated out of the joy at seeing other people be happy, people who love Jesus come from a slightly different situation…a place that is the response to the perfect love they have experienced. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

This love–God’s love–changes everything. Even Ted, if he was real. It’s love that heals, love that soothes, love that motivates, love that engages and transforms lives. God’s perfect love given freely to us, shared with others, is changing the world.

I’d love to have a chat with you about the incredible story of Ted Lasso and the lessons it has for us sometime. Perhaps you can invite me to preach at your church and I’ll offer a sliver of wisdom, a chunk of the Gospel, and a slice of Ted somewhere in the middle. Sounds like fun to me.

For all of the foibles of this incredible show, Ted is right with one thing: You are valuable, you are important, and you are loved.

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Molk is the Senior Field Officer (North) and Young Adult ministry lead as a part of the PULSE team.

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