‘Ted Lasso’ is more than just a show about sports

Image via Brendan Hunt via Wikimedia.

 

[Disclaimer: This is going to be a spoiler-free review. However, there will be a brief description of season two content, so if you haven’t seen the first season, I’d skip this article for now.]

For the past few months, the name “Ted Lasso” has annoyingly buzzed around my head like a fly. First, my mom watched it. Then, all my friends at Vassar joined in. The final straw was when fan edits appeared on my TikTok For You Page. After the show’s massive Emmy sweep (20 nominations and seven wins!), I finally caved. Over October break, without the piles of homework and reading, I found myself binge-watching all 775 minutes in less than 48 hours (I did in fact do this math myself; don’t quote me on it). About three episodes in, I started to get that familiar feeling … I was about to fall in love with this show. 

Shows about sports generally bore me to no end. Rarely do I find a well-developed, or even likeable, character to root for. Seldom do I encounter a plot that does not solely revolve around the “big game against our arch-nemesis” trope. However, “Ted Lasso” combats each and every stereotype of sports shows. Each character is well-developed and serves a purpose within the plot, which does not merely consist of people playing soccer. The show delivers a deep look into the lives of the coaches and players, exploring real problems like divorce, anxiety and grief that people face in the real world.

The first season of “Ted Lasso” came out in August 2020. Critics anticipated that it would be like the sporty show I described: one-dimensional and lacking substance, mere background TV. Almost immediately, though, viewers began to realize it was much more. The premise of the show is clever. Protagonist Ted Lasso is an American football coach who went viral for his cheesy locker room dance moves after a championship win. A prominent Premier League football (the British kind) club, AFC Richmond, hires him to coach despite his inexperience with the sport. Clearly set up for failure, no one expects much of anything from this new coach. Yet as soon as Coach Lasso arrives on scene, it’s clear he’s going to defy expectations. His goofy demeanor and overly optimistic attitude stun the owners of the football club and his players. There is seemingly no problem Ted Lasso can’t fix with a biscuit and a quippy remark. 

Alongside Ted is Coach Beard, his trusty sidekick and the only person between the two who knows anything at all about football. Rebecca, the owner of the club, and her right-hand man Higgins, function as antagonists for the beginning of the first season, having hired Ted to run the Richmond team into the ground. Then there’s the team itself, most prominently featuring Roy Kent, the washed-up captain on his way out of the pros, and Jamie Tartt, a young superstar with a cocky attitude and a superiority complex. The characters really are what make “Ted Lasso” special.  Their compassionate and often hilarious personalities are what allowed me to connect with them so easily through the screen. Additionally, Ted’s humor is unique to any character I’ve ever witnessed, providing a fresh persona for viewers to laugh with. To quote writer Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso” is built around two things Americans hate: soccer and kindness. It really is the kindness of the characters that makes them lovable. Throughout this first season, we see Ted bond with his team and the club, succeeding against all odds and doing so with a big smile under his signature moustache.

However, the second season flips the show completely on its head, and is—in my opinion—the reason why “Ted Lasso” has gained an insane following. I often hear those who have seen it describe the season as “dark,” and I’d have to agree. Ted begins to struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues, creating an opportunity to reveal his surprisingly tragic backstory. The reason behind Ted’s kill ʼem with kindness personality starts to make a lot of sense as we see his character emotionally recall past trauma. I genuinely found myself laughing and crying within the same episode, especially in episode eight, “Man City.” Despite the humorous nature of the show, I ended the episode in tears. The emotional rollercoaster viewers embark on is what made this season particularly memorable. Its portrayal of mental health issues, and specifically the importance of discussing them within the sports world, is especially relevant today with various athletes, such as Simon Biles and Naomi Osaka, starting conversations about their struggles. 

I am excited to see what writers Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt have in store for their characters in the next season. Hopefully, side characters will continue to take their place in the spotlight and further develop their subplots. However, I am most looking forward to seeing where they will take Ted’s character. Further exploration of Ted’s anxiety would be a great way to expand upon his character development. And honestly, his character is simply my favorite because Ted conveys the importance of having someone in your corner to cheer you on. Even if it’s simply saying “I appreciate ya,” Ted Lasso shows every single person he knows that he cares about them, something all viewers can learn something from. Ted Lasso is more than just a show about sports—it’s a show about friendship, love, loss, and identity, and it’s definitely worth the watch.

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