On Oct. 24, 2021, I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to head to the start of the Probility Ann Arbor half marathon. It was chilly, my stomach was empty and I was filled with nerves, already doubting my ability to cross the finish line. I’d never run a half marathon before, and no one in my family is a runner or athletic in any capacity. To be honest, I hadn’t really had time to train for the month leading up to the race, so how did I ever think I was capable of running 13.1 miles?
As I crossed the starting line, my mind wandered, taking in the Ann Arbor neighborhoods I hadn’t seen before, enjoying the brisk air and feeling the pulsing energy of the other runners. I tried to convince myself that I could make it to the finish line with the rest of them, but that didn’t stop the cramps in my side or the shaky breaths that kept reminding me how little experience I had in the art of running.
Then, as we reached the first section of an open park, I spotted a lawn sign staked into the ground out of the corner of my eye. On it was a quote from the Apple TV+ show “Ted Lasso.” At this point, I had never watched the series, but I knew my roommate was obsessed with it, so I took a picture of the sign to send to her later before continuing on my way. A couple of minutes later, I passed another “Ted Lasso” quote posted along the course. Then another. I figured some race volunteers must have posted at least a dozen of them throughout this section of the course.
At first I sighed. I didn’t need some overly cheesy quotes from TV’s favorite athletic coach. But after the first two or three signs, I started to chuckle at them. Yes, the motivational sayings were still absurdly silly, but they were endearing. Seeing the quotes like “You say impossible, but all I hear is ‘I’m possible,’ ” and “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong,” lifted my mood. In a way, they did their job, and made me believe in myself.
I ended up finishing that half marathon. And I finished it strong. Somehow, I managed to run the entire time with no walking breaks, and at a better-than-expected average pace per mile. In spite of it all, Ted Lasso is what helped me through those 13.1 miles.
This past month, “Ted Lasso” showed up for me again. In January, I got an Apple TV+ three-month trial, and the first and only thing on my watch list was “Ted Lasso.” After two years of waiting, I finally watched it, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten hooked on a series faster. Beloved for its heartfelt and positive comedy, “Ted Lasso” follows the titular character (Jason Sudeikis, “Hit-Monkey”) as he moves across an ocean to coach a British football team, despite having zero experience in the field. Ted is the single most endearing and lovable character on television today. With the pure joy he has for life and the way he uplifts those around him, you can’t help but root for him. Yet his optimism and positive mind don’t stem from mere naiveté. He knows what the world is like, but actively chooses to focus on kindness and togetherness.
This show gave me everything I needed, right at the perfect time. After taking a gap semester last fall to finish an internship, I came back to campus this winter only to walk straight into never-ending pressure. Re-adjusting to class schedules and homework loads, trying to find a job and plan for life post-graduation, and costume designing a play for the University ended up being a lot to juggle. Like with the half marathon, I found myself wondering how I could possibly manage to get through it all. Could I make it to the end of the semester without losing my mind?
Turns out, watching an American attempt to coach football in England was precisely the medicine I needed. Watching “Ted Lasso” provided a temporary break from my constant stressors, but it was more than just a comfort show. It also provided reassurance, telling audiences things they needed to hear in order to believe in the world again. I learned that holding onto revenge can hold you back from new happiness as I watched Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham, “Willow”) realize her mistakes. I learned about forgiveness and about friendship as I watched Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster, “The Devil’s Hour”) strive for redemption. I learned that you don’t have to say yes to every great opportunity that comes your way from Sam (Toheeb Jimoh, “The French Dispatch”) as he made the decision to follow his gut and stay in Richmond. And I learned that you shouldn’t live life feeling like you have to win all the time; we don’t have to live in constant competition with each other, or with ourselves. “Ted Lasso” is a show that provides a hilariously good time, but also spreads goodness and life lessons that we as a society tend to forget. And I now know that I needed the reminders.
The most timely reminder for me came through watching the show’s thoughtful portrayal of struggles with anxiety. Anxiety has been something I’ve dealt with for years, but only as I watched “Ted Lasso” did I realize how infrequently it’s portrayed in-depth on-screen, especially in comedies. The series even helped me get through my first panic attack. I didn’t know what was happening at the start of it, but as I was finishing up a meeting, I could tell that my breathing was getting faster, and I felt shaky and completely overwhelmed. Eventually, I realized that I was having a panic attack because I was experiencing the same reactions I’d seen Ted deal with in the show. My hands tensed up, I couldn’t focus and could barely get out half a sentence. Luckily, “Ted Lasso” gave me the vocabulary and the knowledge to identify what was happening to me. Seeing other characters, especially one as outwardly composed as Ted, deal with anxiety too helped normalize the experience for me. I felt reassured and not as scared to reach out to a friend for help before it got any worse.
“Ted Lasso” is able to rebuild someone’s belief in the world, not through outward actions or obvious statements. Every episode is not created with the goal of pushing morals down someone’s throat. Rather, “Ted Lasso” works because of its quiet reflections amidst the comedy. The show has a commitment to balancing the story it tells. The laughter becomes mixed with the very real pressures and doubts that the characters face. Ted’s anxiety isn’t there simply to add conflict for the character, but rather it’s an integral part of the balance that makes the show resonate so deeply with audiences. It teaches us that we aren’t defined by a single aspect of ourselves. Ted can exist as an optimistic person and deal with anxiety. It doesn’t make him any less lovable.
Through this well-crafted balance, “Ted Lasso” becomes so much more than a bunch of male soccer players and coaches attempting to win a match. In the show, Ted teaches his players that “success is not about the wins and losses.” Rather he wants them to “be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.” Each character works to find their own balance and in doing so proves to audiences that we don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of living and finding happiness in a society that so often tells us to be prettier, smarter or harder-working. Within the constraints of its plot, “Ted Lasso” hides nuggets of truth that we all need to hear sometimes. Not everyone will notice, and some people are there just for a laugh, but if you are stuck somewhere in your life, looking for a bit of reinforcement, maybe an episode of this show is exactly what you need.
“Ted Lasso” will continue to be there for me. Every time I rewatch an episode, I gain new perspectives or lessons. Whether I laugh at one of the oddly specific pop-culture references, or realize how poignant Ted’s advice of thinking like a goldfish is, this show made me believe in the restorative quality of television again. But it’s more than just a series. It’s there for all of us when we need something to push us back on course. When we need someone to tell us to believe that there’s still good in the world, to believe that things will work out in the end and to believe in ourselves, “Ted Lasso” has our backs.
Season 3 of “Ted Lasso” will be available for streaming on AppleTV+ on March 15.
Daily Arts Writer Mallory Edgell can be reached at email@example.com.