Hope Won’t Kill You!

| by Bert Armstrong

My newest pandemic binge-watching obsession has taken me to Apple TV to learn about life from the Golden Globe award-winning hit, Ted Lasso. For the uninitiated, American Ted Lasso (played by Jason Sudeikis) is a college football coach from the United States who is recruited to coach an English Premier League team, AFC Richmond, despite having no experience in association football – better known around these parts as soccer.

Ted comes across as an unsophisticated boor who is completely out of his element. But viewers quickly learn he is smarter than he looks. One of his favorite exhortations throughout Season One is his unwavering commitment to caring more about people than he does winning games – a sentiment that takes his players and the team’s rabid fan base some time to warm up to as the team suffers through a miserable season.  

Each episode offers countless opportunities for Ted to preach and teach his “people are more important that win” formula for success to his players, coaches, and the Club’s owner. Using simple acts of kindness, words of encouragement, and a healthy dose of folksy Americana philosophy, Ted’s wisdom ultimately brings new levels of success to the team and to the individual characters in the show. 

Watching the season finale a few days ago, I was immediately struck by the episode’s title, “The Hope That Kills You.”  The phrase refers to the idea that when fans raise their expectations and hopes too high, it is a more crushing blow when the team fails to win the big match.

Ted Lasso finds the phrase irritating. I do, too.

I have had a lifelong love affair with my college alma mater. If you know me, you know my school. Given our small size and playing in an elite athletic conference, we know a thing or two about disappointment, having witnessed more than a few crushing, humbling, disheartening losses on the football field and on the basketball court. Yet for more than 50 years, I come to the start of each new season with a healthy dose of youthful enthusiasm and anticipation. Regardless of the pundit’s projections, good or bad, and regardless of the wins or losses to come, I see each new season as a chance to build on the previous year or to rebuild from a time of struggle with the energy of new coaches or new recruits.

Being hopeful about my school’s success in sports is not killing me. To the contrary, it is energizing. No matter the outcome of any game, I will always love the atmosphere of a good pre-game tailgate. And I will cheer loud and sing proud when our fight song is played. But I grew past the level of over-hyped, “winning matters most” hysteria many years ago. I have grown to be more than a rabid fan. Today, being hopeful about their success comes from knowing what Ted Lasso knows – that winning in life and caring about other people is more important than winning or losing any game.

I have come to care about the long-term success of the school and the students and student athletes of today and those who will attend in the years to come. I am hopeful they will lean into our school’s motto of Pro Humanitate, using their knowledge, talents, and compassion to better the lives of others. I am so hopeful about the future they can help to shape that I have chosen to be a regular donor to the university. And while being hopeful will never kill me, there will come a day that I am no longer a fan in the stands. When that time comes, I have chosen to leave a gesture of my hopefulness through a planned gift to the school along with other nonprofit organizations that reflect my values and my hopes for the future.

As you reflect on the people, places, causes, and ideas that give you hope, I encourage you to find ways to demonstrate your faith in humanity by exploring ways to philanthropically support your favorite nonprofit organizations, schools, and causes. Let’s make Ted Lasso proud!

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