I’m late to "Ted Lasso." My lateness mostly results from not wanting to pay to subscribe to yet another streaming service to add to my television viewing options.
Matthew Gilbert, the television critic for The Boston Globe, has advised me and others to avail ourselves of free trials, binge on a series or two, and then cancel before being charged. There’s nothing unethical about Gilbert’s advice, but having to remember to cancel after the allotted time seemed too much trouble.
My mindset changed recently after the woman I’d eat bees for convinced me that $6.99 a month was far less than what we’d pay to go to the movies. We signed up and just finished watching the first season of "Ted Lasso."
I promise not to provide any significant spoilers, but let’s get out of the way that Walt Whitman never wrote the words “be curious, not judgmental,” as the lead character claims. Facts matter, but more important to this column is what the show has to offer.
I know little about British football (our soccer) and the Premier League. I had no idea if the teams on the show are fictionalized versions of real teams, nor how relegation works (or that it was even a thing). But I do know that some of the behavior reflects how I’d like it to be true, on or off of the pitch.
Ted Lasso’s character is the moral center of the show. He is supportive, understanding, patient, inspirational and forgiving to a fault. Sometimes he presents as goofy with just a tad too many dad jokes in his arsenal, which I’ve learned is the name of a real British football team.
But what makes the show more than a simple sitcom built around the mishaps of a bumpkin tossed in a foreign environment is that the writers, and actor Jason Sudeikis, give us a fully formed human being. He has doubts. He experiences personal trauma. He finds himself sidled with guilt on occasion. But he rarely loses his patience with anyone else in his orbit — though his humanity makes him do that on occasion as well.
I bring this up now because it seems too simple for us to cast blame on and be unforgiving of others, even when their transgressions are minor. It’s easier to dismiss someone altogether than to try to understand that whatever they might be going through might be far worse than we could imagine and could cause them to act in ways that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with their inability to manage their own pain.
It’s too easy for us to dismiss the ideas of others solely on the basis of their current station in work or life. What "Ted Lasso" gives us, albeit in a highly fictional setting, is a glimpse into an alternative worldview wherein we believe in the possibilities of others and ourselves, but not so much that we can’t shift our viewpoint when life necessitates.
Even if it’s fiction, even if a real Ted Lasso might be chewed up by those around him beyond any ability to function, it’s worth taking a moment to entertain the notion of a world in which patience and acceptance are embraced even when we strongly disagree with one another. Being curious without being judgmental indeed seems the right thing to do.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @jseglin
(c) 2023 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.