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 #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site. We discuss his experience at the MLB game at Field of Dreams; his thoughts on the appeal of the Field of Dreams, and baseball in general.
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Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
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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.
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Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon