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Believe is more than a sign: Ted Lasso, S3 E5

BELIEVE. Seven letters, all caps. Handwritten on a piece of yellow construction paper taped in the locker room with athletic tape, crooked. A sign—the sign—and symbol of a great show.

One of the first things Ted Lasso did as coach of AFC Richmond, was tape that sign over the door to his office. It has a Dante-esque feel. As Inferno tells us there is a sign above the door to Hell reading, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” there is a sign above Coach Lasso’s door for those wanting to gain entrance into the Ted Lasso way. You have to believe.

It’s the sign of my favorite show, but at times the sentiment—or maybe the way it has been received—has bothered me.

What does it mean to believe?

During season one, I bought a shirt that looks like a Greyhounds’ jersey. The only difference is that where you would expect it to read Dubai Air (remember that?), it instead reads Believe.

One day, a stranger commented on the shirt, “Believe. I like that,” he said. In that brief encounter, it was clear that the stranger was unfamiliar with Ted Lasso and instead thought I was wearing a Christian tee-shirt. He seemed to imply that Christians somehow have a corner on belief.

That encounter is probably why when at the end of season one, Ted tries to inspire the Greyhounds by saying, “I believe in believe,” I rolled my eyes.

Belief, a word prominent in my life these days, is often misused.

Like that stranger in the parking lot, belief is often associated with intellectual assent. One believes, if they agree with some basic principles. We are proud of our “right” beliefs (orthodoxy), and worry about heretics, those whose beliefs we see as wrong. Some change churches (or create new ones), because we worry about others’ beliefs. Wars are fought over what we believe.

Rightly understood, belief is deeper than that. It’s more profound. It has less to do with right and wrong positions, and more to do with how we live, how we treat others, how we look on the world.

A new understanding

Jamie Lee the writer of “Signs” (Ted Lasso season 3, episode 5), puts one of the best definitions of belief in the mouth of Coach Lasso. In a discouraging moment, after taking down the BELIEVE sign, he looks at the team and says,

Belief doesn’t just happen because you hang something up on a wall. All right? It comes from in here (heart). You know? And up here (brain). Down here (gut).

Only problem is we all got so much junk floating through us, a lot of times we end up getting in our own way. You know, crap like envy, or fear, shame. I don’t want to mess around with that shit anymore. You know what I mean. Do you?…

You know what I wanna mess around with? The belief that I matter… regardless of what I do or don’t achieve. Or the belief that we all deserve to be loved, whether we’ve been hurt or maybe we’ve hurt somebody else. Or what about the belief of hope? Yeah? That’s what I want to mess with.

Believing that things can get better. That I can get better. That we will get better.

Oh man. To believe in yourself. To believe in one another. Man, that’s fundamental to being alive. And look, if you can do that, if each of you can truly do that, can’t nobody rip that apart.

Transcription mine (with help of closed captions)

I too wanna mess with belief in myself—that I matter. In others—that they matter. I want to live with the believe “that things can get better. That I can get better. That we will get better.”

That kind of belief is fundamental to being alive.

The sign may be down. But the belief continues… maybe stronger than ever.

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