This post contains spoilers for Ted Lasso, S3.12 ‘So Long, Farewell’
“It’s not fair.”
I heard those words through the sniffles.
“It’s not fair they make us fall in love with these characters and then take them away after three seasons,” said my wife.
The sniffles continued.
I know it’s cliché to talk about how good a show is, how it can allow us to escape the realities of life and, for a moment, experience something we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It feels like this year in particular, we’ve had to say goodbye to so many good shows. Perhaps it’s because we now live in the era of streaming, but I am hard-pressed to think of another time when so many excellent programs came to a close. This year has been full of the dreaded series finales at which storylines are wrapped up, characters complete their arcs, and our hearts are left feeling a little empty.
Personally, I’ve endured having to say goodbye this year to such favorites as Star Trek: Picard, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and A Million Little Things. And tonight, I added Ted Lasso to that list.
Sometimes, it really isn’t fair.
The sniffles were mine, by the way. The emotions were real. The thoughts were rummaging through my brain, bouncing off my heart, and occasionally perusing near my soul. I hate how good the show is because it sends me spiraling into all the thoughts of what can be.
So with that, I present a list of things I learned – or was reminded of – by watching Ted Lasso.
- It’s about Dreaming: For three seasons we watched a rag-tag group of footballers from fictional AFC Richmond coalesce and finish ever so close to winning the Premier League. But in particular, we watched a young Sam Obisanya talk about one day playing for the Nigerian national team. And even when he is seemingly passed over by his country to represent them in the World Cup – only to find out later it was because billionaire Edwin Okufo gave $20 Million to the Nigerian government to ensure they did not select Obisanya, an act of revenge against Sam for rejecting Okufo’s offer to join his club – Sam never lost hope. His boyish smile remained steadfast and beamed in the show’s closing montage as he stood on the pitch in uniform with his Nigerian teammates.
- It’s about Acceptance: So many shows go for the low-hanging fruit of drama and division. The storyline of Colin Hughes dealing with his life as a closeted professional footballer, not knowing how to tell his teammates – and by extension the world – that he’s gay, was a riveting and heartfelt look into what it means to accept others. Some may dismiss the locker room scene as unrealistic, but it should be viewed as an example of what true love can be. Love for your teammate, love for your friend, love for another human being; we may not fully understand the life someone else chooses to live, but we can still accept them, support them, defend them, and, most importantly, love them.
- It’s about Healing: Season 2 of Ted Lasso focused so much attention on mental health and the process of Ted coming to terms with his father’s suicide. Team therapist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone was a key character throughout that season, and her influence not only helped the team claw their way back into the EPL, it also forced Ted to come to terms with what had been haunting him. We shouldn’t be scared to take care of our emotional well-being, and this show put a spotlight on how important it is to seek professional help when things seem too hard for us to handle on our own.
- It’s about Betterment: From the proverbial kickoff of the pilot episode, it seems the theme of being just a little bit better every day was a constant. The practice sessions, Ted’s Facetime conversations with his son, Jamie Tartt’s desire to re-invent himself in Season 3; these are all little beats leading to a crescendo of fulfillment in the end. And no moment solidifies it better than when at the conclusion of a Diamond Dogs meeting, Higgins so eloquently states, “Human beings are never going to be perfect, Roy. The best we can do is to keep asking for help and accepting it when you can. And if you keep on doing that, you’ll always be moving towards better.”
- It’s about Overcoming: So much of life is dealing with pressure. The pressure to succeed. The pressure to live up to expectations. The pressure to know what is supposed to happen next. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all had to deal with pressure in one form or another. For Rebecca Welton, her three-season arc saw he face the pressure of being a female owner in a predominantly male-owner sport, being the ex-wife of the adored philanderer, and constantly feeling the need to present confidence even when she perhaps was drowning in insecurity. Yet through it all, and with the help of the lessons she learned from Ted, she was able to overcome those challenges. She was able to see past the pettiness and focus on what is important. She was able to remind herself of her worth and cut through the misogyny. With every obstacle she faced, she found a way to overcome them and, in the process, help others along the way.
- It’s about Graciousness: There was nothing more miserable than to see coy, little Nate Shelley turn into a WWE villain at the end of Season 2. His defection from AFC Richmond to become manager of West Ham left fans of the show seething. And in the early episodes of Season 3, everyone was eagerly awaiting ‘the Wonder Kid’ to get his comeuppance. Everyone, that is, except Ted Lasso. The eponymous character did not fight fire with fire. He did not sling mud in retaliation. And in an act of foreshadowed wisdom, he did not let his team watch the video of Nate ripping the beloved ‘Believe’ sign as a final gesture of malevolence before his departure. Instead, Ted took the route of calm and sincere concern for a man he once considered a good friend. For so many of us, this is such a hard thing to understand, let alone do. For Ted Lasso, however, his stick–to–itiveness to the high road was not a challenge at all because in the end…..
- It’s about Forgiveness: Forget everything I said above. At its core, the show Ted Lasso is about forgiveness. I am so blown away by the counter-culture messaging this series provides, I don’t know where to begin. Again, it’s so easy – and in many ways trope – to produce a show that traffics in the dog-eat-dog brutality of ‘the real world’. The quest for power, the command of respect, the pursuit of legacy, the lust for more; all the ordinary plotlines you’d expect to see in hit TV shows because, for years, you’ve seen them littered throughout hit TV shows. But it takes something extraordinary to depart from the norm and present the viewer with the unexpected. At the end of Season 1, Rebecca confesses to Ted she hired him with the sole intention of sabotaging the team and ruining the one thing her ex-husband loved. Ted’s response was direct and to the point.
The tears are still mine. Not because I am going to miss the fictional coach of a fictional team that exists in a real world that feels a little too fictional. Rather, it’s because I know what it’s like to be forgiven, and I exist in my faith because I know I am forgiven. This show held up a mirror and forced me to see so many things about myself that had become so easy to ignore. It’s made me re-examine who I am and who I want to be. It has challenged me to let go of anger and pain, and replace them instead with understanding and patience. It’s reminded me there is so much to gain in moments of failure, and so much to lose when we embrace stubbornness and pride. It’s taught me to be a goldfish and dared me to be curious and not judgemental.
Thank you to Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, and Bill Lawrence for creating one of the greatest shows of all time. And thank you to all the other cast and crew members who brought it all together to give our hearts a dose of love and sweetness at a time when division and bitterness have taken center stage. This show really hits the mark.