The thing about the show “Ted Lasso” that people seem to be gliding right past is that main character Lasso’s relentless kindness, patience and compassion achieve different results than those you might expect from the coach of an elite level sports team. Most of the commentary on the show takes the accurate but facile view that Lasso’s resonance is the simple fact of his niceness. “We all just need something nice right now,” or some variation on that theme.
But it’s deeper than that, and braver too.
Jason Sudeikis’ Lasso is kind in the face of an awful lot of unkindness, and his team loses. They lose a lot. In the real world, whatever mega-rich person owned the team would fire him and find someone who could whip them into shape, a real, classic hardtail. But the results Lasso gets from his seemingly arcane methods are greater trust from his players and employers, increased happiness for everyone in the organization, more love and compassion among teammates, and generally a more supportive and comfortable place to work for everyone involved. The characters on the show are not winning, in the traditional sense, but they’re all winning in the ways that, the show argues, matter most.
The show isn’t simply nice to watch. It also redefines what success is.
Maybe this is just a moment in time, a temporary shifting of the cultural winds, or perhaps we really are evolving. Maybe we’re tired of being bullied, and shows like “Ted Lasso” point to a way of living that measures results differently.
The implication is that, to be nice in a world that has become anything but, THAT is how we win.
I’ve worked for some real hard tails in my time. I’ve had stress dreams about being berated for small mistakes. I’ve hatched anxieties, trying to anticipate which of the plates I’m charged with spinning, will smash to the ground next. And the thing is, a hard tail boss maintains the illusion of being good at their job, because being an a%*hole will achieve you some short-term success. In a crisis, for a short time, stepping over the lines of common courtesy can get people moving.
But long term, it’s a loser. Most folks can’t work in that environment for very long. Turnover rises. Training cycles shorten. Loyalty ebbs. And all along the hard tail thinks s/he is winning, because s/he can bully people into doing things. S/he can appear strong, even as the foundations of whatever organization their charged with leading erode beneath their feet.
“Ted Lasso” is an indictment of the core idea that winning is what matters, that toughness is always the card to play, and that you have to be a hard tail to get ahead. There is nothing ground-breaking in the plotting, pacing, or dialogue that makes the show great. It’s this magically subversive idea that kindness is the better way on ALL the levels.
Also, some people call a mountain bike with a rigid frame and front suspension a hardtail. They’re really fun. You should try one.