Written by Steve Norton

Ted Lasso tells the story of an American coach of England’s fictional soccer club, the AFC Richmond Greyhounds. Having achieved success in the US College Football circuit, Ted Lasso moves across the pond to take over the struggling soccer franchise.

Initially, his arrival there is met with disgust. After all, he barely even understands the game himself and Richmond takes their soccer very seriously. However, there’s something about this man that begins to change not only the team but the organization and the entire city.

Infectious with its humour and heart, Ted Lasso has quickly become a fan favourite and an awards darling. The series has a plucky spirit about it. Lasso is a man who chooses to believe that anything is possible.

In the first episode, he places a crudely-made sign above his office door with a one-word inscription: “Believe.” For Lasso, this is not some pseudo-spiritual mantra, but rather an invitation to life. Stepping into a locker room filled with contentious players, Lasso‘s approach to coaching isn’t only about drills or practice.

Instead, he feels that the best way to make better players is to make them better people. Small tokens like “biscuits with the boss,” books designed to help his players see the world differently, and simply being a support for them during times of crisis begin to melt the frozen hearts of those around him.

On the surface, it feels like a very basic show and, arguably, even cheesy in its approach. But although Lasso’s mantra may be simple, there’s a depth to the show that makes it so much more than other positive sitcoms.

Although Lasso may be the voice of positivity, his life is as broken as everyone else’s. With a marriage that’s moving toward divorce, Lasso is a single father barely holding it together. Dealing with trauma from childhood and severe panic attacks, he may be the last person you’d expect to be changing the hearts and minds of players on the pitch. Every day is a struggle, yet when he comes to work, he chooses to believe the best.

The show understands that a good man in the modern era is one who admits his own brokenness. Not long ago, manhood was defined by so many of the traits that we now recognize as toxic. Bravado, domineering power, and emotional silence marked an era of masculinity that we now look back on in shame.

Lasso deconstructs the myth of manliness. Here, a good man is one of character who honours other people above himself. He doesn’t always understand the culture or the people around him, but his humility and willingness to listen serves as a reminder that many of the ideas we’ve held about the male identity are wrong.

Lasso is a gentle soul, willing to find the best in even the worst of people. Refusing to stoop to the lows of those who disapprove of him, he takes his criticism in stride, and even loves his enemies.

Although Lasso makes no profession of faith, his life of peace and hope calls others to believe in something more than the world they know. (In fact, his ability to call out brokenness while helping others may make him the most unlikely Christ-like figure on television.)

Even through struggles, Lasso recognizes that there is still power in loving others and doing the right thing. And while this may not always translate into wins on the field, he understands that winning in the locker room may be more important.

Steve Norton is a writer and podcaster based in Toronto, ON; he’s also an editor at ScreenFish. Read more from “Behind the screens” column.