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  • philreinders

Loving your enemies, the Lasso Way

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Are you sick of the fighting, the social media trolling and trashing, the climate of contempt and derision, all the destructive disagreements of our polarized politics?

Then watch Ted Lasso.

I don’t need to tell you that it’s ugly out there. We’re living in a culture of contempt where the best we're told we can hope for is tolerance. Yet we all know that’s hardly the stuff strong enough to counter the tide of derision.

Enter Ted Lasso, the Apple TV sleeper comedy hit that has stolen the hearts of many (and Season 2 premiers today!). Ted Lasso is about an American college football coach moving to London, England to head a Premier League soccer team, AFC Richmond, with absolutely no soccer experience and absent of any relevant knowledge of the game (“Seriously! Explain offside to me. It makes no sense,” confesses Coach Lasso).

Ted, however, is being played by the team’s owner, Rebecca Welton. Driven by divorce-fuelled revenge, Rebecca’s plan is to destroy the team that is her cheating ex-husband’s true love by hiring a joke of a football manager.

Ted Lasso, a folksy, Mr. Rogers teddy-bear of optimism, enters the cut-throat, red in tooth-and-claw, f-bomb laden field of Premiere League football (soccer for us North Americans); it is a hot-house of contempt where Lasso is repeatedly insulted, disrespected, harassed, dismissed, scorned and ridiculed. But Lasso’s courage does not allow any of that derision to derail his mission.

It would be easy to think of Ted Lasso’s appeal as a feel-good, sunny optimism that gave us joy when we needed it most in our pandemic lockdowns. And it is that. But this is a powerfully good and beautiful show for so many more reasons (fyi, there is a health dose of adult content so parents might want to check it out first).

The cast of the show is brilliant, with a roster of characters you come to love, each with their own depth and growth (deferential clubhouse kit-guy Nathan, angry, aging star Roy Kent, third-page model Keeley Jones, spirited Dani Rojas, cynical journalist Trent Crimm). The soundtrack is brilliant, wildly ranging from the Sex Pistols to Edith Piaf, and if Marcus Mumford singing “you’ll never walk alone" won't get you misty during the final locker-room scene, you are likely dead inside.

But I love this show for so much more. In our age of “bad as you wanna be” anti-heroes, Ted Lasso is a testament to the power of kindness. For an era where men are trying to sort through what it means to be a man, Ted Lasso offers a model for how you can be fully masculine and good. And tender. And vulnerable - to be fully human.

And its hopeful, feel-good vibe only works because this is a show that won’t let us avoid the pain and sadness of life (“We’re all a little bit sad, all the time. That’s just the deal.”). So many of the characters are working through their own brokenness. It never turns toward a sappy, fix-it “everything’s going to turn out just fine” - games are lost, toxic parent relationships are real, aging takes its toll, marriages crumble. Instead, Ted Lasso shows us real pain and why it matters, and yet how our best hope is that we don’t have to go it alone. (“Ain’t no one in this room alone.”)

But mostly Ted Lasso is about the power each one of us have to make the world a better place. It’s about loving your enemies.

Ted Lasso enters a world of hostility: an owner who manipulates him, a team that scorns him, a town that loathes him (“Wanker!”), a press that sneers at him. But Ted doesn’t see enemies in anyone. He relentlessly acts in kindness, humility, and love, seeking the best of those around him. Gently, patiently, persistently, Ted Lasso channels the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas: “To love is to will the good of the other.”

Season one showcases this power of enemy-love that heals our hurts and transforms lives, and AFC Richmond club owner Rebecca Welton is exhibit A. We meet Rebecca as a powerful but deeply hurt woman, suffering the emotional gaslighting of her cheating ex-husband Rupert and the sexist harassment of the tabloid paparazzi. Rebecca sees her ex Rupert as an arch-enemy to tear down and demolish, no matter how many suffer the bile and bitterness.

Rebecca, however, is unable to resist the grace constantly shown to her by Coach Lasso. The daily “biscuits with the boss,” Ted’s artless vulnerability, his dart-hustle defence of her, and the forgiveness he extends cracks open Rebecca. It’s this enemy-loving grace that leads Rebecca to ultimately embrace the very thing she was set on destroying. Love transforms an enemy into a family.

That is the brilliant and fierce hope of Ted Lasso because that love of our enemies is higher and stronger than mere tolerance and civility. That is the power every one of us has to make the world a better place, to transform our hostile culture of contempt into the hope of kin, of family, of a community we can embrace, defend, and love.

It doesn’t matter that Coach Lasso knows so little about soccer because the beautiful game he coaches us in is loving our enemies.

That’s the game I want to play. That’s the way I want to see the world - the Lasso way.

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