Ted Lasso – Praying For A Win

Ted Lasso is an Apple TV comedy drama about an American sports coach, who without any prior football experience, comes to London to take over struggling premier league club, AFC Richmond. We then follow Ted on a heart-warming journey, as he dedicates himself to helping his team become the best people they can be, both on and off the pitch. This is more important to Richmond’s new coach than simply winning games.

Ted is a kind of sporting pastor, and his football journey actually made me think of religion. This might not be such an outlandish comparison. Did your know that early football clubs often had close links with churches? In the 1880s, according to football historian David Goldblatt, a quarter of all football clubs in Birmingham had their roots in the Church. In 1887 a group of Catholic churchmen founded Celtic as a way of keeping Catholic football players within a Catholic institution. There were similar links in rugby. The sports historian Gareth Williams says that every church in Leeds in the late nineteenth century had its own rugby club.

Sport grew up around churches because it tended to reproduce the feelings that people once looked for in religion. There’s the sense of being part of something bigger than yourself – seen in huge chanting crowds, or Mexican waves flowing around stadiums, or mottos like “you’ll never walk alone”. Ted goes out of his way to foster this kind of togetherness, both among his team, and in the wider community.

Sport is also reminiscent of religion in the way it serves as the outlet for heightened emotion – useful when opportunities for public displays of passion have declined in modern society. The fluctuating fortunes of AC Richmond generate extremes of fervour, amongst players, coaches and fans alike.

Then there’s the way sport provides a sense of continuity and tradition, which is particularly welcome in a technological world that is rapidly changing. When Ted arrives at Richmond, the first thing he learns about is the club’s history, which extends back to the First World War, when the stadium was used as a hospital.

And finally there’s that feeling of aspiring to something more. This mysterious quality of something more is tricky to define. It could be the prospect of a great victory and transporting emotion; or the chance to make fabulous amounts of money; or it could be something that goes beyond money and winning – enjoyment, for example, or fellowship and belonging, which both tend to foster honourable behaviour, where individuals put others before themselves. Ted Lasso personifies these latter qualities. The show is a passionate, sensitive and entertaining journey into the modern religion of sport. It’s just for fun, but like sport itself, it also concerns itself with matters of vital importance.

No One Is Talking About This Review

The first part of Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This reveals a rather highly-strung woman who writes for, and immerses herself in, the internet and social media. The writing takes the form of a series of surreal tweets.

The writing is poetic in tone, and makes some interesting points about the nature of the internet – the way it loves to judge, simplify, divide, mislead. I liked the line about a woman joining social media to see pictures of her grandson, and ending up believing in a flat Earth. The book is good at sketching in the grey that actually exists beyond all the social media black and white.

Then in the second part of the book, due to draconian Ohio abortion laws, the narrator is forced to give birth to a cruelly disabled child. The Ohio governor and his supporters are enthusiastic about the sanctity of human life. When it comes to giving support to said sanctified life after it’s born, then Ohio governor and friends are not nearly so interested. Yet the new mother does love the baby, despite the suffering of the child and of those who care for it. So more grey areas, all still presented in tweet form.

The two halves of the story seem to come together in the baby’s situation, which involves a condition where the brain cannot make connections. The suggestion seems to be, in the end, that people are happiest when they make connections. The internet, for all its faults, for all the divisions it can open up, is primarily an evolution of the human need to connect.

I don’t know if I enjoyed this book. The second half is harsh and upsetting, so much so that I could barely continue reading. It would also take someone more internet-savvy than me to get all the references and in-jokes. Even so I found No One Is Talking About This interesting and timely, making me feel that sharing a review on the internet about it was a worthwhile undertaking.