Melissa Florer-Bixler is right about ‘Ted Lasso’ — a full confession

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Columnist
Posted 7/28/21

After I read my respected colleague Melissa Florer-Bixler’s recent editorial in the Washington Post (“‘Ted Lasso’ showed us how kindness can change UK soccer. Until we saw the real UK …

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Melissa Florer-Bixler is right about ‘Ted Lasso’ — a full confession

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Posted

After I read my respected colleague Melissa Florer-Bixler’s recent editorial in the Washington Post (“‘Ted Lasso’ showed us how kindness can change UK soccer. Until we saw the real UK soccer”), why did I want to kick my laptop across the room like a soccer ball?

Spoiler alert: it has to do with me, not her.

I admit that I love “Ted Lasso” and confess that I have been known to gush effusively about Jason Sudeikis’ title character on the Apple TV+ series as a moral exemplar. Florer-Bixler acknowledges that she, too, was sucked into watching the series.

But in order to watch, she had to pretend that the story was set on a deserted island far away from society, much like another popular television series, “Lost.” Florer-Bixler writes that her disconnect with reality on “Ted Lasso” was not the central premise that an unknown college coach of American football would suddenly be named head coach of one of the premier soccer teams in England. Rather, “In Ted Lasso’s alt world, politics and power barely exist.” Florer-Bixler explains, in the world of the television show, “racial, socioeconomic and gendered power is absent and all human conflict is interpersonal” as opposed to systemic. This dynamic became glaring after the real-life racism toward Black players on Britain’s national team after its loss in the European Championship.

Despite my abiding love of “Ted Lasso,” I admit that Florer-Bixler’s argument is persuasive, which means that I have more to confess — actual sins.

Confession of sin is often thought of as admitting what we have done wrong. Few would disagree that hurling racial epithets at Black athletes is a blatant example of the sin of racism.

But there are also sins of omission — when we do not do what is right. Reading Florer-Bixler’s piece, I realized that I was guilty of these silent sins of omission. Following the Black Lives Matter protests that summer, I sought an escape by binge-watching “Ted Lasso.” I checked out of thinking about systemic racism as if I went on vacation to a tropical island.

Now, you might be tempted to say that I should cut myself some slack. Maybe what you would actually like is a little break yourself. But the issue is that certain people cannot escape systemic racism.

There are also redemptive aspects to Ted Lasso. I love that Sudeikis’ character is unfailingly kind, even to his enemies. His kindness wins over nearly everyone, even those who had sought to destroy his reputation.

While Florer-Bixler acknowledges that kindness can transform personal relationships, she points out that kindness may distract or prevent “confront(ing) iron-clad systemic power.” By failing to confront racial, socioeconomic and gendered power, I am guilty of this sin of omission and also of excusing my inactivity and silence in the name of kindness.

Fuller confession: I plan to continue watching “Ted Lasso.” But Florer-Bixler’s editorial gave me a strong nudge — if not a kick in the seat of the pants! And I offer this mea culpa in hopes that you, too, would be motivated to work for racial, gender and economic justice in our real world.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”

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