Be Curious, Not Judgemental
I was delighted to see that the Apple TV programme ‘Ted Lasso’ did so well at the Emmy Awards on Sunday. While I thoroughly enjoy ‘The Crown’, and I am not remotely surprised by its continuing success and consequent awards, ‘Ted Lasso’ offers something a little bit different, and it is certainly going to prove much more useful as a resource for assemblies, speeches and, indeed, blogs.
It is not a show suitable for younger children, though I have no idea if age ratings are applied to television programmes nowadays, so please check if you are not sure. It is, however, very funny and particularly well crafted. It is based around a football club called AFC Richmond, so there are lots of locations that you will recognise, from the green to the river and through the lanes.
Driving in Richmond is not usually a pleasurable experience at the best of times, but it seemed to be particularly slow last year, with a significant blockage in the road next to The Ivy Cafe, which closer inspection showed was caused by a film crew coming and going. I do not know for sure they were filming ‘Ted Lasso’, but it seems a reasonable assumption given the number of shots in and around the area. For reasons that could only be described as irrational, now that I think they were filming this series that I like so much, being inconvenienced seems much more tolerable.
A few months ago, I was asked if it would be an issue if some filming was done in Pope’s Grotto underneath the school. The film company was prepared to pay for the privilege – not a huge amount of money, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as they say. Having agreed and promptly forgotten all about it, I remember going home a few days later and wondering why a big lorry was parked outside St Catherine’s, further slowing the already slow traffic in Cross Deep – not that I am obsessed with traffic, you understand.
By the time I had walked to the car park, I had managed to work out that this must have been the aforementioned film crew, but I had never heard of ‘Ted Lasso’ at that point, so I did not give the matter any further thought. Of course, it now turns out that I missed a real trick, because it was an episode of the show that was being filmed here. If they were to come back again, I’d be right in the thick of it, trying to meet the stars and get a few autographs, if that is still a thing – though it’s probably just selfies nowadays.
If you have not seen it, the premise of the plot is that a struggling premier league soccer club hires an unknown American coach, whose only experience is in a different type of football. The club’s female owner has been dumped by her husband, who used to own it but who gave it to her as part of the divorce settlement, and she plans to get revenge on him by driving the club into the ground, starting by hiring a seemingly hopeless manager.
At first, her plans look to be coming to fruition as Ted Lasso struggles to get the players to work as a team, incurring the wrath of the club’s supporters and the mockery of the press. But, as relegation looms, slowly and steadily the situation begins to improve. The prima donna striker who won’t cooperate with his teammates is side-lined, the aging club captain has his growing rage channelled more productively and the power of the collective triumphs over the narcissism of individuals.
I have loved it since I first started watching it a couple of months ago and I would thoroughly recommend it for the right age range because it is not really about football, even though the club provides the focus of the storylines. I did not realise it was quite so popular or so well regarded until I saw on Monday morning that it had picked up seven Emmys. Jason Sudeikis, who is superb as the eponymous Ted, was named best lead comedy actor, while co-stars Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein won best supporting actress and actor. In accepting his award, Sudeikis said, ‘This show is about family, it's about mentors and teachers, it's about team-mates. And I wouldn't be here without those three things in my life.’
In an episode I watched recently, Ted challenged the club’s former owner to a game of darts and accepted the offer of a wager to make it more interesting. If the owner won, he could pick the team for the last two matches of the season, but if Ted won then the owner would promise not to attend any more matches. After a few rounds, Ted is behind, but he still has a chance to win, if he can complete a three-dart checkout for 170 – two treble twenties and a bullseye. No one thinks he has a chance, of course.
But Ted then gives one of the speeches that makes this such a captivating programme. He says, “Guys have underestimated me my entire life. And for years, I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw this quote by Walt Whitman and it was painted on the wall there. It said: ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ And I liked that. So I get back in my car and I’m driving to work, and all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas that used to belittle me; not a single one of them were curious. They thought they had everything all figured out. So they judged everything, and they judged everyone. And I realised that their underestimating me…who I was had nothing to do with it. Because, if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions, you know? Questions like: ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?’ To which I would’ve answered: ‘Yes, sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father, from age ten till I was sixteen, when he passed away.’ Barbecue sauce.”
At exactly the right moments in the monologue, Ted throws his three darts. The first two are perfect trebles and the last is the bullseye to win the match, which he releases just after he references barbecue sauce. This is linked to another saying of his, “Whether you're winning or losing, keep a positive mindset and remember that darts gotta come from the heart. If you're about to take a winning shot, think of something that makes you smile. Mine is good ole barbecue sauce.”
It is a genuinely wonderful television moment, leaving the viewer unsure whether to laugh or cry, which the best programmes usually aspire to do, but rarely achieve. I have been curious ever since, finding all sorts of Ted Lasso merchandise and posters online. It’s probably too late now to change our straplines or values, but I shall certainly be using ‘Be curious, not judgemental’ a lot from now on.