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The Power of Communion in Ted Lasso

Editor’s note: the following article contains spoilers from Apple TV’s hit comedy, Ted Lasso. There are NOT, however, any spoilers concerning Season 2 which released recently. So if you have watched season 1 already, read on! Otherwise, you have been warned. Additionally, the articles published on lovethynerd.com should never be considered endorsements. To determine if Ted Lasso is appropriate for you or your family, we high recommend reading this review of the show at Common Sense Media.

In the world of professional soccer, a loss is a terrible thing; even more so when the loss makes real the looming threat of relegation—a demotion to a lower league and the loss of sponsorships and revenue that comes with it. This is exactly what happens at the end of Ted Lasso’s first season in stunning fashion. Sideline joy turns sullen from the opposition’s last second decisive counter attack for the match winning goal. So ends the Richmond Greyhounds’ season and their time in the Premier League. A somber mood drifts in the air, sinking downward as would a blanket thrown over a bed; the camera pans slowly over the defeated players. Ted Lasso, a middle-aged man, a product of rural farm life in Kansas, and American Football Coach walks into the locker room to address his team post match. He briefly pauses, scratches his cheek and surveys the many faces around him, as if to reflect on the journey to this moment before finding the right words. 

Roy

A jaded legend. Roy Kent’s best days of football are well behind him, but what days they were! His rough exterior is merely a facade for a player who used to be full of passion and pride for the beautiful game. The seriousness with which he approaches his profession sets the tone for his early sentiments towards his new manager: dissonance.  Ted has not only never coached a day of soccer in his life when he arrives at Richmond, but is a remarkably jovial soul. Now, he is the steward of a team playing at the highest level, with a veteran who has won at the highest level. Simply put: Ted and Roy are oil and water.  They possess polar opposite personalities, and harbor conflicting ethos on sport.  Any rational onlooker could see these two should avoid being friends, let alone working together.

Like water over rock, time and gentle force smooths out the edges. Ted sees early on who the true leader of the team needs to be if they’re to achieve any success; he just needs Roy to come to this realization on his own. A careful balance is thus struck between giving Roy space and applying pressure—Ted proves himself to be a master of this type of mental economy. One day, he refuses Roy’s request to stop the younger team members’ incessant bullying of the equipment manager, Nate, and the next he is insisting they go speak to kids at an elementary school. In the former scenario, Roy is given room to take up the mantle and put an end to Nate’s torment, and in the latter he is pushed to do something well outside his comfort zone.  This all converges at the end of the school visit; in an act of frustration Roy finally snaps. 

“Enough! I’ve had it with your mind games, and your stupid gifts; I mean what even is A Wrinkle in Time?” 

Enter Trent Crimm, sports writer for The Independent, interjecting, “It’s a lovely novel. It’s the story of a young girl’s struggle with the burden of leadership as she journeys through space.” 

“Yeah, that’s it,” says an affirming Ted. 

“Am I supposed to be the little girl?” exclaims an irritated Roy.

“I’d like ya to be.” 

A colorful final retort from the grizzled veteran ends the exchange as he calls for his young niece’s hand and strolls off. Little does Roy know, the blow needed to crack his defensive shell had been struck. For Ted, developing a relationship with him means rekindling his beginner’s spirit; only in such a return can Roy Kent write his swan song.    

Jamie

The only thing that outshine Jamie Tartt’s talent is his ego. He is a young maestro on the pitch; a flurry of offense. He doesn’t pass the ball because why bother, he’ll score anyways and he knows this is universal law. He has the skill, the looks, the supermodel girlfriend; this is a young man who seems fulfilled and has it all figured out. There is just one catch—he is on a losing team. One must beg the question, why?

When Ted meets Jaime he doesn’t dismiss him as a bully.  He is, ipso facto; but Ted sees right through the arrogant facade. When chastising Jamie, with an ode to Allen Iverson, he knows the best medicine for him is a dose of setting up cones for the reserve squad practice. After a tough loss, he knows the best words for him to hear are compliments.

“I haven’t known you that long, but I can honestly say you are the best athlete I have ever coached.”

“Well, yeah, I mean I work out … yeah”, replies a disarmed Jamie.

“I see it. You are truly great at everything you do out there, except for one thing.”

“My left foot cross …”

“No. Jaimie I think you might be so sure you are one in a million, that sometimes you forget that out there you’re just one of eleven.  If you just figure out some way to turn that ‘me’ into ‘us’; sky’s the limit for you.” 

Upon learning about his tumultuous relationship with his dad, Ted sees that Jamie’s disdain for Roy is merely a cri de coeur for a father figure. Noxious behavior is not some arbitrary occurrence manifest at birth; it is learned over time through bad examples. Coach Lasso tries to be an advocate, an exemplary male role model, but just as his efforts are beginning to take root Jamie is traded to a rival team—Manchester City. This devastates them both. To Ted, it is analogous to a sheep leaving a shepherd’s flock. To Jamie, it’s another rejection; another person who gave up on him. 

The genius of Ted is he understands the difference between community and being in communion with one another. Where one seeks relations based on utility, the other seeks to build relationships founded in virtue.

The truly great coaches throughout the history of sport never give up; especially on their players. Even with Jamie starting for another club, Ted finds a way to mentor him. After a particularly dramatic win for Manchester City in the final game of the season in which Jamie assisted the go ahead goal in the final moments, Ted sneaks over a small post game gesture. A note that reads “way to make that extra pass”, along with a token – a green army man with binoculars. As if to say, “I am with you from afar, proud of you, and still consider you a member of my unit.”  

Rebecca 

The new sole owner of the Richmond Greyhounds, Rebecca Welton is the powerful figurehead for the organization. She radiates poise, beauty, and a keen sense for the finer things in life—a true British aristocrat through and through. Rebecca means business and has one singular mission: to ensure her football club is an utter disaster.  That’s right, she wants to see the whole thing burnt to ash, a footnote in the history books. This counterintuitive stance is born of a desire to spite her newly ex-husband, Rupert, who cherishes only one thing in this world: his beloved Greyhounds. 

Forgiveness is the proper outlet for our outrage, the true mortar for the bricks of fellowship.

Rebecca’s master plan to achieve this goal is Ted. His resume is devoid of any merit that would suggest he could manage an English Premier League team. She views him as a pawn and hopes his hiring is as much an obscene gesture as it is an agonizing downfall for her ex-lover to helplessly watch. But much to her chagrin,  Ted finds a way to build a bridge to her.  Each morning he brings her homemade cookies, something he coins as “biscuits with the boss”. He acts as a companion during a stressful charity event she must host. And in a most chivalrous fashion he even defends her honor in a game of pub darts against none other than Rupert. As Ted shows he is a true friend with her best interests at heart, Rebecca paves the way with traps. 

Vengeance is merely a veil for the wounded spirit and when the weight of her actions finally sinks in, Rebecca summons the strength to wipe clean her facade. 

“Ted, I lied to you. I hired you because I wanted this team to lose. I wanted you to fail, and I sabotaged you every chance I had. It was me who hired that photographer to take the photo of you and Keeley. I set up the interview with Trent Crimm, hoping that he would humiliate you. And I instigated the transfer of Jamie Tartt, even though you’d asked me not to. This club is all Rupert has ever cared about, and I wanted to destroy it. To cause him as much pain and suffering as he has caused me. And I didn’t care who I used, or who I hurt, all you good people just trying to make a difference.” 

With tears welling she says, “Ted, I’m so sorry.” A subtle nod in disbelief, Coach Lasso absorbs her confession. He slowly gets up from his chair and walks around the corner of his desk to stand face to face. 

“If you want to quit or call the press, I’ll completely understand,” she concedes.

“I forgive you.”

With no hesitation and an extended hand, Ted enacts his greatest feat. He has every right to be callous, to feel betrayed, but opts instead to forgo any retribution. Forgiveness is the proper outlet for our outrage, the true mortar for the bricks of fellowship. As a coach, Ted is far more interested in what Rebecca and he can achieve together rather than what they can destroy on their own.

It doesn’t take him long.

“Hey, y’all played a heck of a game out there. We may not have won but y’all definitely succeeded. I mean you gave the champs 90 minutes of hell. … Roy Chased down his grandson; stopped him from getting an easy one. Now, look, this is a sad moment right here. For all of us. And there ain’t nothing I can say, standing in front of you right now, that can take that away. But please do me this favor, will you? Lift your heads up and look around this locker room.”

The team obliges.  And in this moment we see the tapestry; from Roy and Nate, to Higgins and Rebecca, all of the faces we come to know over the course of the season are a thread, woven together by this one man.  Even Jamie Tartt, although not present in body, had an integral part in acting as the ironic harbinger for this juncture; his selfless extra pass resulted in the opposition’s go ahead goal. 

The genius of Ted is he understands the difference between community and being in communion with one another. Where one seeks relations based on utility, the other seeks to build relationships founded in virtue. Coach Lasso challenges us to be leaders by example, to find the joy in our vocations, to humble ourselves so others may shine, and finally to forgive without pause or judgement. The Lasso way is an antidote to the ego one often finds seeping from the digital walls of modernity.  When the medicine kicks in, we cannot help but see we belong to one another.

As a character who is rarely scraping for words, I’ll let Ted close in only the way he can.

“Look at everybody else in here. I want you to be grateful that you’re going through this sad moment with all these other folks. Because I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad, and that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t nobody in this room alone.”





A born and raised Appalachian, Elliott is a software engineer by day and wannabe game designer by night. A WVU alumni, he co-founded Parable Game Studios in 2016 with a mission to create small and meaningful digital experiences and to use game design as a teaching mechanism for youth in his area. When not working or playing video games, he enjoys running, strumming the guitar, and reading. Elliott is also a big fan of Star Wars puns.

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