So often when we see sports — professional or otherwise — depicted in pop culture, they’re reflecting the worst, most toxic elements of masculinity. Coaches are gruff and abusive, convinced they can motivate their players to win with intimidation and physical punishment. Locker rooms are rife with homophobia, misogyny and cruel pranks. Victory is a must; as Dale Earnhardt once said, “Second place is just first loser.”
Ted Lasso doesn’t just deviate from this formula — it actively fights against it. As the titular character, an American football coach who finds himself helming the AFC Richmond soccer team in England despite not knowing much about the sport, Jason Sudeikis looks the part. He’s got the mustache and the Mike Ditka glasses, and at one point a woman he hooks up with refers to him as the Marlboro Man. But Ted also happens to be the nicest man alive — just a total ray of light who’s constantly cracking jokes and showing up with handmade baked goods — and while it’s a fish-out-of-water story on the surface, the show is at its core a lesson in kindness. It reminds us that we’re all better versions of ourselves (on and off the field) when we’re treated with care and understanding.