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I was late to the soccer…er, I mean, football game, but after multiple endorsements from coworkers and friends, and two other posts on this blog— Jeff Munroe’s Ted Lasso: A Man for This Season and Brian Keeper’s The Power of Likability: A Lesson in Leadership from Ted Lasso — I finally gave in, coughed up the $4.99 per month for Apple TV, and pushed play.
And I quickly became a believer.
Fresh off re-watching Season One, I’d like to make The Twelve’s duet singing Ted Lasso’s praises into a trio.
As an educator, I often talk of books and other media as giving students mirrors and windows: mirrors to see a reflection of their own experiences and windows to see into the lives of others. While watching Lasso, there have been several instances when I’ve expected to see a mirror reflection of the values our society seems to have securely installed: I’ve expected that differences of opinions would be greeted with animosity, truth telling would be met with defensiveness, and confessions would be met with judgement.
Lasso presents me with a window into another world. When Ted, usually loquacious, is taunted and criticized, he chooses silence. When others are outright bitter and manipulative, he stays calm and leans into curiosity. (Cue a rewind of the dart-throwing scene featured in Keeper’s post.) When his team loses and everything seems to be wrong, Ted reminds his players not to dwell in the discouragement, but to be like goldfish, the happiest animal in the world with a 10-second memory.
While I could riff on several aspects of Ted Lasso that have given me windows of hope, I’m most taken with its portrayal of grace.
Perhaps the show’s pinnacle moment of grace (SPOILER ALERT!) is near the end of the first season when Rebecca confesses to Ted that her original intentions were only to hire him to take the Richmond team down, and thus hurt her ex-husband as much as he hurt her. As she slowly admits one wrongdoing after another, a series of hurtful actions directly meant to sabotage Ted’s wholehearted efforts as the team’s new coach, I held my breath as Ted silently took in each word, swallowing hard and eyes filled with hurt. I expected, as did Rebecca, for him to blow up; I expected her betrayal to open up a window of anger, rage, and revenge — or at the very least a mirror of passive aggressiveness.
But instead Ted got up from his desk, walked to stand eye-to-eye with Rebecca, and said three simple words, “I forgive you.”
* * *
I’m currently participating in a book study looking at Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators by Elena Aguilar. Aguilar says that her book is really about “the moment between something that happens and how we respond to it.” She makes a claim that resilience is cultivated in the spaces between the hundreds of tiny moments that teachers encounter each day — the unplanned fire drill, the email from the upset parent, the broken copy machine, the kid who drops trash on the floor of the classroom — and our response to those moments.
But, of course, anyone in any occupation or just in our daily lives, also encounters hundreds of these moments each day. It’s that moment your kid spills his milk, the moment the guy driving in front of you doesn’t use his blinker, the moment just after the racist punchline, the moment the snide comment made around the Thanksgiving Dinner table lands right in your lap. It’s that moment when Ted took a ragged breath and chose forgiveness over fury, when he made a split second decision to deliberately move toward empathy rather than bitterness.
Aguilar reminds us, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
In that space is our chance, like Ted Lasso, to shake off a bit of our innate human nature, our inherent bent toward impatience, selfishness, and irritation and to choose a response that might look a little more like Jesus, a little more like the kind of response of a person who understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of audacious grace.
As we enter this Thanksgiving week, may it be so.