Our very own Craig Kaufman wrote a beautiful piece revolving around season one of the AppleTV+ hit show Ted Lasso. Something about that piece, and the show, really resonated with me throughout what was a difficult year plus in all of our lives. I really want to hone in on how Craig summed up his piece.
“Ted Lasso is not the coach that we deserve right now. But he’s the coach we all need. One of the first things that Ted Lasso does when he gets to Richmond is hang a sign over his office door that says ‘Believe.’ We will come to find out that he has these signs all over his house, including on his bathroom mirror to be seen every morning and night. It’s a dark time we live in right now. Quite possibly the most discouraging, divided, and uncertain period in American history. Lasso’s optimism provides more than just a half-hour of laughs. It reminds me that there is still hope that we can pull out of this darkness if we follow the lessons that he teaches his players.
“Forgive each other. Believe in each other. Speak your mind. Be a goldfish (the animal with the shortest memory). Make the extra pass.“
Navigating Uncharted Waters
Jason Sudeikis and the team behind Lasso gave us one of the most brilliant and visceral scenes I can remember. In the episode, AFC Richmond is celebrating a shock result away at Everton and go out to a karaoke bar. While Hannah Waddingham’s Rebecca is singing Let it Go from Frozen, Ted begins to have a panic attack and needs to leave the bar. This scene broke me. In the middle of the excitement, happiness, and delight of what’s going on, everything about Ted’s personal life comes to a head.
Everything about that scene is perfect.
It starts with Rebecca singing the words “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see”, but the camera showing Ted, and you can tell something is a little off. Everyone’s cheering, Roy is singing along, and then when she gets to “can’t hold it back anymore” we’re back to Ted. And then the sound gets piercing, the camera gets fuzzy and we see the tunnel vision start to take hold. His hands start fidgeting and breathing gets all out of whack.
I can honestly say I have never related to a character in a show so much. He may be presenting as a happy go lucky coach who “believes in believe”, but Ted still has his demons. It’s what makes him human. Sure, there are all sorts of larger than life scenarios depicted by the show, but this scene may be the most pivotal in the series to date. And there’s something about Rebecca being the one to help him identify what’s happening and pull him out of the rabbit hole he had quite legitimately sunken into outside that club. A little air of “no one is alone”, truly.
The physical manifestation of Ted’s panic attack, along with some quite brilliant cinematography choices, forced involuntary tears to stream down my face. I’ve been there. I wish I could forget, but it’s important that I don’t. Those moments are so real, and it’s hard to understand what causes them, and why they take such a hold of you. You’d expect something like this in a show like Homeland, but that it happens to Ted makes it all the more relatable. It makes it real. But you have to remember that you’re in control.
It was no surprise, after going on that journey with Ted in season one, that Sudeikis and crew would find a way to make this a focus of season two.
Roy Kent, the lovable midfield made of cement, has retired and the story keeps harkening back to his emotional retirement announcement in front of the press. This is something Roy really wrestles with, because he has chiseled this brutish persona that he sees as having taken a hit.At one point, a beau of Rebecca comments that Roy’s emotional press conference was the “first time my father’s forwarded me an e-mail in the last five years that wasn’t about the scourge of immigration. And that really meant a lot to me, so thank you.” There’s something important in that. It’s a reminder that mental health is extremely important, and all too often we don’t give it the attention it deserves.
Danny Rojas steps up to take a penalty in the first episode, and accidentally kills the team mascot, an actual greyhound that had chased a pigeon onto the pitch at exactly the wrong time. It was very Randy Johnson and the dove if you remember that. Danny then is completely overtaken by this tragedy and develops what Lasso and Beard call (or try not to call) a case of the “yips”. Higgins, played by Jeremy Swift, suggests bringing in a sports psychologist to help Danny through the moment.
And he comes out the other end.
The show then dives into Ted’s mistrust of therapists and dives into how he always felt like he was being set up when going to couples therapy with his wife Michelle. They go through with it anyway, and what they find is that the whole team wants to have a session with Dr. Fieldstone, and she becomes a mainstay throughout the season. The literal change in mindset helps Richmond turn things around and start getting positive results on the pitch. But Ted is still a skeptic.
Make the extra pass
Making that extra pass doesn’t mean you’re giving away an opportunity. It’s freeing you of the burden of having to do it all yourself. What a brilliant reminder that phrase is. We can’t do it all ourselves. There are others running alongside you reaching for the same goals. Ted will go the extra mile for everyone else, but isn’t doing it for himself. And, man, did that really resonate with me.
It would be a lie to say the last year and a half hasn’t been a struggle. And, in a way, this “return” to a more “normal” life has been more of a struggle. It was actually pretty easy to sit inside my house, only go out when necessary, be unemployed, and write. Now I’ve settled into a steady job, gotten vaccinated, and tried to navigate my new normal. It’s been quite the journey and I’ve gotten a lot wrong, even hurting some people in the process because of how I’ve really huddled away. But it all comes to a head. It’s not uncommon for folks to bottle things up until there’s so much pressure that they explode.
Ted has really tiptoed that line, and truly helped me to realize that I’m also tiptoeing that line.
I’m not against therapy, but I’ve always been terrified of how I’d do with it.I’ve gone to a handful of therapists in my life, but never made it past a third appointment. I’ve never gelled. And because of that I’ve let this stigma fester in my headspace.
Then comes season two, episode six. In the middle of an FA Cup Quarterfinal, when things are seemingly going well and the club is on course for a shock result, we start to see it again. The tunnel vision. Physical manifestation that forces Ted to put his fidgeting hands in his pockets. It’s back. And while I want to be excited about Richmond’s potential in the FA Cup, I’m sucked in and crying again. And this time it’s so much more public than last time. Ted clearly feels the world is watching, so he needs to escape. As he does so, his team is distracted, and allow an equalizing goal. The scene cuts back to the pub where everyone is screaming at him, placing blame, closing his world further if he were there to hear it.
I’d like to make an appointment
Ted disappears at that point. And while Rebecca has left her seat in the owner’s box to try to be his savior again, she can’t find him. All the while the coaching staff has to pick up the pieces, and the team pull off an immaculate victory to send them to the FA Cup semi-final. But in that whole moment we’re encapsulated by Rebecca’s search. There’s an abject horror that set in for me as she picked up his vest from the floor of the locker room, only for the team to burst in, losing their minds over their improbable victory. In that moment Rebecca is isolated in her concern, Ted is nowhere to be found, and I’m weeping on my couch.
The episode ends with Dr. Fieldstone accepting an invitation to join the team out at the pub for one drink. She then goes into her office to find Ted laying on her couch. He is absolutely not himself. Jason Sudeikis has managed to give a truly transcendent performance in this show and I cannot stress enough how much I believe in that. When he sits up, you see the pain in his eyes. That mixture of terror and acceptance that he needs to finally make that extra pass for himself.
Personally, I’ve had that moment hit me many times, or so I thought. But today is actually my first step forward. For the first time in over a decade I have an appointment with a therapist. And I can’t truly put my finger on why I’ve practically gone out of my way to avoid it up until now. Ted may not trust therapy for a specific reason, but I don’t necessarily have that. But that tunnel vision, the fidgety hands, and gasping breaths are all real. And before I find myself walking off the job because I’ve ignored it for too long, and it starts to truly erupt, I have to listen to Ted Lasso’s message. If I don’t it’s going to be a much harder journey to self-discovery.
So I’ll raise one to Ted Lasso. Because he, and the rest of this show, has helped to remind me that I need to make that extra pass for myself. And we should talk about mental health. We’re all in this together. No one is alone.
Now if only I could be a goldfish…
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