By Gerry Chidiac
I am not a big fan of fiction in any format. I prefer that writers clearly elaborate their theories or that they explain what is actually happening in the world. I’ve also never been influenced by the latest draw in popular culture.
Given my disposition, I was surprised to find myself binge watching the hit comedy Ted Lasso on Apple TV. The program not only makes me laugh it draws me in, and dare I say, it even affirms my beliefs about leadership and education.
The premise for the show is ridiculous. Ted Lasso is a successful college football coach in the United States and is hired to coach professional football, what North Americans call soccer, in England. This idea was piloted several years ago for American television, but the personality of Ted Lasso in the current program is quite different from that of the original.
Ted has to adjust to an unfamiliar world and to the highly critical fan base of a beloved sports franchise. The jokes about differences in language and culture are predictable, but the evolution of the story is not what one would expect from a comedy series, or from any television program for that matter.
Most films and television programs are not realistic because they involve people screaming at each other, insulting one another and even killing each other. That is simply not what life is like for most of us.
In addition, the image that many of us have of a coach — in any sport — is someone who yells at his/her players and demeans them. Again, that is simply not what effective coaches do.
Ted Lasso is a kind man who treats everyone he meets like the most important person in the world. In truth, that is one of the most common characteristics of a good leader.
The main character is so positive that some critics have stated that he demonstrates toxic positivity. I would beg to differ. Toxic positivity refuses to delve into negative emotions. That’s not the case with Ted Lasso. At times, Ted does not know how to deal with negative situations in his life, or in the lives of others, but he is wise and humble enough to accept help when he needs it, just like a real, effective human being.
The depth of Ted’s character is revealed in an episode when he is playing darts with one of the show’s only villains. He quotes Walt Whitman and says, “Be curious, not judgmental.” In other words, be kind to others, treat everyone with respect, encourage them, and watch what happens.
The vast majority of people will respond positively to being treated this way. A good coach, teacher, or any leader, understands that doing so will draw out the best in others. They will not only be open to the leader’s instruction, they will begin to believe in themselves as much as the leader believes in them.
Of course, there will always be people, primarily adults, who will see kindness as weakness and will display manipulative behavior, but Ted’s advice even works with them. If we observe them with curiosity we can learn how to respond effectively.
To this point, there hasn’t been any character in Ted Lasso’s inner circle who has not displayed growth as a human being under his tutelage. He has been able to create a work environment where people respect and truly listen to each other. Every character has their quirks and foibles, however, just like normal people do.
Admittedly, we have yet to see how the program and its characters will evolve, but the anticipation is all part of the fun.
Ted Lasso is only in its second season, and it has already garnered many well-deserved awards.
It really is a joy to watch a silly and unrealistic comedy about real life.
Gerry Chidiac is a Canadian educator and a columnist for Troy Media.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans, why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks, and the fact the vast majority of players are for more protective netting in stadiums.
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Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
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Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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