I, like many other people in this day and age, have taken to binging TV shows during the pandemic to pass the time. Of all the shows I’ve watched, the one that surprised me the most is Ted Lasso.
Ted Lasso is the story of an American football coach who is sent to England to coach an English premier league soccer team. The setup is for a typical fish-out-of-water story, where the American fish is in English water, or the football coach is in soccer water. I decided to watch it just because it had sports in it, not because I expected it to be any good. I was fully expecting it to be bad and predictable and full of stupid jokes.
But Ted Lasso is more than that, because biggest fish out of water tale being told here is one of an uncynical fish being placed in cynical waters. And that, in these times, is an interesting theme to explore. We are all experiencing what the world is like when a cynical leadership is imposed on us. What happens when a distinctly uncynical leadership is imposed on us? The show explores that idea thoughtfully, and I find it delightful.
It’s easy to take a cynical view on sports, particularly this season. Why are they even playing during a pandemic and the other various crises? Because, the cynic says, they’d lose money if they didn’t. It’s all about the cash.
But if can you drop your cynicism for a minute, if you can see past the dollar signs, there is a joy in sports that we deeply missed when everything was shut down.
So here I am blogging about the A’s 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. It was the 50th game of the year. As I started this blogging adventure this season, I questioned myself: is it even appropriate to distract myself from the troubles of the world with this game? Am I participating in a cynical act in a cynical world?
But even if there’s a cynical reason that they are even playing these sports right now, it may also be cynical to reject the joy that sports can bring. Is it wrong to take pleasure in Tony Kemp’s acrobatic avoidance of a tag at the plate which scored the A’s first run? Should I not take appreciation in the clever way that Mike Fiers used his curveball differently in the thin air of Denver, where curveballs often hang and are hit very far? Should I not enjoy how Fiers used his changeup to steal strikes, and his curveball as a chase pitch, instead how he usually uses them the other way around? Should I not relish how Jake Diekman and Liam Hendriks have become a lights-out duo at the end of ballgames?
The things that bring joy are the things that make life worth living. If we shut those things out, we are throwing away this year or two of our short, finite lives, waiting for a better day that, for any one of us in a dangerous time, may not come.