Don’t be a goldfish

Posted 1/7/21

Over the Christmas holiday, my wife and I watched all 10 episodes of “Ted Lasso.” Actor Jason Sudeikis plays the title character — a mustache-wearing former coach of a small-college football …

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Don’t be a goldfish

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Posted

Over the Christmas holiday, my wife and I watched all 10 episodes of “Ted Lasso.” Actor Jason Sudeikis plays the title character — a mustache-wearing former coach of a small-college football team who is hired to lead a premier soccer team in England. Of course, in Great Britain (along with the rest of the world), soccer is called “football” and this television show features hilarious cross-cultural lessons, many at the expense of the American coach.

But coach Lasso gamely shares his own eccentric twists on time-honored wisdom. He tells a struggling player that the happiest animal is the goldfish because this creature has a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish, Lasso advises.

I played baseball growing up and often heard a similar idea. I’d make a mistake and the coach would yell, “Forget about it!” You couldn’t dwell on an error or strikeout because it would hinder you from doing your best the next time a ball was hit your way or you stepped into the batter’s box.

Even so, a highly developed memory is a competitive advantage for the human species. Memory is crucial to our survival, for it allows us to adapt and solve problems. I bet even Lasso has heard the adage that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

I write these thoughts at the start of the new year. It is a new beginning. A clean slate. Perhaps you, gentle reader, would happily forget 2020. There have been many losses, tragedies and widespread suffering.

Yet, there are also lessons to remember.

Though the presidential election was bitterly contested, more Americans voted than ever before in history. Though the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans were brutal, more people have worked together to reform the injustices of systemic racism. Though quarantine and social distancing have kept people physically apart, more meetings and conversations have occurred through online platforms like Zoom video conferences.

OK, no one is saying Zoom is fun all the time! Still, many of us have come a long way with the technology.

Though we hope for healthier, happier times in 2021, we don’t want to forget the ways that we’ve grown in response to these challenges, especially as COVID-19 mutates into new viral strands. While a goldfish swims blissfully alone in the fishbowl, we cannot forget that we are in this world together.

While I think the metaphor about being a goldfish has its limitations, “Ted Lasso” is still the best show I’ve watched in the past year. This television coach understands the real-life truth that, whether the sport is American or English football, the essential lessons are the same: Great teams are built on mutual respect, cooperation and support. Teammates have to work hard on these relationships as well their individual skills like kicking or throwing a ball.

We are Republicans, Democrats and independents. We are different genders, races and ethnicities. We speak different languages and follow different religions. We like different sports!

But we must remember that we humans are on the same team.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.

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