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The Literary Wisdom of Ted Lasso

"Be Curious. Not Judgmental."

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • October 28, 2021

As diehard fans of the heartwarming and hilarious Apple+ show Ted Lasso we cannot fail to notice something particularly smashing about the titular coach and his stoic sidekick. They're extremely well-read! The show is packed with eclectic literary references, as well as a wide variety of actual books. So while we wait—not patiently—for season three, we decided to explore the Ted Lasso library.

The Charismatic Leader

At the heart of this show is fish-out-of-water Ted (played by Jason Sudeikis, who is also one of the show's creators) attempting to adapt his skills from coaching American football to that of the English Premier League pitch. The character's philosophy, both in life and coaching, is drawn from Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success by John Wooden and Jay Carty. Ted has a poster on his wall signed by Wooden, a renowned basketball coach and the book, which appears in several episodes, lays out the principles and values that Wooden has identified as the foundation for his own success in life.

When we first meet Ted, he is holding what looks to be a well-loved copy of The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, a story clearly related to Ted's own quest for truth and self-discovery. The Ultimate Cockney Geezer's Guide to Rhyming Slang by Geoff Tibballs sits in Ted's gift basket when he arrives in his London apartment.

In season two, Ted reveals that Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is his favorite book, a surprising choice. "I know, curveball, right?" he quips, "But I can explain." Perhaps that explanation will come in season three.

The Inscrutable Coach Beard

Brendan Hunt, who plays the enigmatic Coach Beard, is also co-creator and writer of the show. We love that Beard is frequently shown reading books. Not surprisingly, some of these are instructional guides like Coaching Soccer for Dummies and Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson but he reads other things too, like:

Literary Gifts

In an early episode, Coach Lasso gifts each of his players a different book. The specific choices seem to indicate something about that character's personality and role on the team.

Gruff team captain Roy receives A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Roy is perplexed as to what this book has to do with him. Then he hears the description: "It's the story of a young girl's struggle with leadership as she journeys through space."

"Am I supposed to be the little girl?" he asks testily.

"I'd like you to be," Ted responds.

BTW, we came across this lovely guest post from L'Engle's author site about the mention.

Other noted titles include:

Constantly Referential

Conversations between Ted Lasso and Coach Beard are simply littered with the literary. After their first game, Beard says, "I hate losing." Ted replies, "Bird by bird, coach," a reference to the beautiful memoir/writing guide by Anne Lamott. The title refers to a memory cherished by the author of her then ten-year-old brother struggling to complete a report on birds for school. Their father sat down beside him, put his arm around his son's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." This anecdote informs the author's mantra about the process of writing.

Some of the other wide-ranging references we've noticed include:

We'll leave you with this one last lovable line from the charming, comedic Coach Lasso regarding the rumor of a curse on their training facility: "What I can tell you, is that with the exception of the wit and wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes, not much lasts forever."

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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