“I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad—and that is being alone and being sad.”
I didn’t see it coming.
I thought I knew the playbook Ted Lasso was using. I’ve seen a lot of sports movies. I’ve also seen a lot of comedies that look at the world through the rose-colored glasses Ted always seems to have on. So, despite the fact that I should have known AFC Richmond needed to lose in the Season One finale to secure a second season for the show, I genuinely believed they would do what all underdogs do in these kinds of stories—shock the world (and comfort the audience) with a win.
I thought everyone loved the first season of this show because it gave them a happy ending at a time when so many of us could use one.
I was wrong.
Ted Lasso isn’t a show about what it means to be happy. That’s not why people love it.
It’s a show about how we deal with sadness.
And that’s why people need it.
Everyone on this show experiences sadness—and not just because Richmond loses in the end. Rebecca’s divorce, Roy’s injury, Keeley’s issues with Jamie, Jamie’s issues with his father, and Ted’s own marital struggles—they all highlight an important fact about being human:
In the words of another brilliant recent comedy that had a lot to say about how we handle hard times, “We’re all a little bit sad, all the time. That’s just the deal.”
Sadness is part of the deal. It comes with the territory. When you feel and care and love, there are going to be sad moments. So much of Ted Lasso’s appeal—especially in this last year—is in the way it acknowledges that sadness and setbacks are a part of life. And sometimes we can’t make it better, for ourselves or the people we love.
For a show that’s been praised for its positive outlook, Ted Lasso’s positivity is never toxic. It’s not a show that says, “Don’t be sad! If we all help each other, everything will turn out fine in the end!” Instead it’s a show that says, “Sometimes life is sad and things don’t turn out fine, but if we help each other, at least we won’t have to be sad alone.”
For all his optimism and openness and belief in the power of teamwork, Ted knows what it means to be alone and be sad. We watch him struggle with his crumbling marriage on his own and we see how his belief that growth matters more than wins can isolate him from even those closest to him. But then, there are the moments when someone sees him and reaches out—when Roy stops him from walking into traffic or when Rebecca gently eases him through his panic attack. It’s in those moments that the sadness feels a little less overwhelming and the loneliness fades a little. Because when we’re seen, when we lift our head up and meet the eyes of someone who cares, it doesn’t magically fix what’s broken in our lives, but it makes it a little easier to live with the broken pieces.
That’s what having a team is all about. They’re not just the people who celebrate the good times with you; they’re the people who see you and sit with you in the hard times too.
Ted has a team. Every character on this show has a team. And it’s not just the players on the pitch and the coaches in the locker room. It’s Higgins and Rebecca and Keeley too. In the end, they’re all together not to dance together loudly in victory but to sit together quietly in defeat.
And sometimes that’s all you can do.
As Ted says, “This is a sad moment right here—for all of us. And there ain’t nothing I can say standing in front of you right now that can take that away.”
It’s the truth—a hard truth for people who want to fix things, who want to use their words to make another person’s pain go away. There are going to be times in life when even the best words from the most positive people can’t make things better—can’t stop the sadness. But if Ted’s taught us anything, it’s that stopping the sadness shouldn’t be the point.
The point is standing with someone through the sadness.
Our goal as human beings—as members of our own teams—shouldn’t be to make sure the people around us are never sad. That’s setting us up for failure.
Instead, our goal should be to make sure they’re never alone.
Because the only thing worse than being sad is being alone and being sad.
And while we can’t always make people feel less sad, we can make them feel less alone.
“Ain’t nobody in this room alone.”
That’s the most we can ever hope to give to other people—the sense that no matter what they’re feeling, they don’t have to feel it alone.
And that’s the sense that I have always hoped people walk away from NGN with every time they find themselves within these hot pink borders.
So many of us are sad right now—for so many reasons. Struggles we pushed aside in order to deal with a global pandemic are coming back to the forefront, the hopes we’d had for what post-vaccine life would look like haven’t really come to fruition, the anxiety and grief and pain so many of us have lived with for so long didn’t magically disappear when life started going back to “normal.”
Being sad is part of being human, and like Ted, there’s nothing I can say to take it away—no matter how frustrating that feels.
But I can say this, we all have to be sad sometimes—it’s the tradeoff for being alive. But what we don’t have to be is alone.
Sadness wants us to be alone—that’s when it thrives. So it does its best to make us hide our pain like Ted or push others away like Roy or sabotage our relationships like Jamie or even like Rebecca with Ted at first. But sometimes we find people who are strong enough to stand up to the sadness in us—who let us be sad but refuse to let us be sad alone. Sometimes it’s someone like Keeley who refuses to budge when we try to isolate ourselves. Sometimes it’s someone like Rebecca who sees us struggling and grounds us with a steady hand and gentle voice. And sometimes it’s someone like Ted himself who reminds us to lift our head up, look around us, and see just how many people we have on our team.
That’s the lesson of this scene—and the lesson of Ted Lasso as a whole: If the hardest thing about being human is that we’re all a little bit sad all the time, then the most beautiful thing about being human is that we never have to be sad alone.
Let’s be sad together, and if you’re new to NGN or a regular member of the NGN Family, I hope you never forget that this will always be true:
Ain’t nobody in this room alone.