Warning: Contains spoilers for Season 2 Episode 5
A few days ago on Twitter, comedian Megan Beth Koester tweeted about Ted Lasso :
Judging by the replies, her joke didn’t land too well with parents and grandparents who are big fans of the show. I’m not here to pile on; rather I’m here to say that it’s no exaggeration to say the show saved my writing life, particularly Season 2 Episode 5.
Let me explain how the two are inextricably linked:
In late 2019 I had an idea for novel about a teen boy who becomes radicalized to white nationalism online, told from his point-of-view, and that of his Jewish friend. My young adult author “brand” is the intersection of teens and technology. My editor jokingly calls me “The Dick Wolf of YA.”
I sold that book to Scholastic in 2020, but due to the shift to teaching full-time online, moving house, and general COVID stress, I didn’t get really cranking on it till the semester ended in mid-December 2020, at which point I realized that although I had sold the story as being told from a male and female point of view, there were good reasons that it actually had to be two males. I talked to my editor and we agreed to try it from three points of view — two males and a female. I cranked out a first draft from three points of view in about three months.
It wasn’t easy. Facebook just reminded me of a post I wrote a year ago.
But after discussions with my editor, we agreed that the girl character’s point-of-view wasn’t adding enough to the narrative. So back to the rewriting board I went — this time with the two male characters. The female character stayed, but we learn about her personality through her interactions with the boys.
I was on a super tight deadline for the next draft. We’d already pushed the book back from Summer 2022 to Fall 2022, because I needed more time, and because of the subject matter, it was a book we wanted to make sure we got right. From mid-March to mid-May 2021, I wrote an average of 2500 words a day, seven days a week.
For me, that’s a lot, especially without a day off. To say I was burned out is an understatement.
And that was just from the writing. The research for the book. which required me to immerse myself in my deepest fears (antisemitism and Nazis) meant I was spending time lurking in white nationalist chatrooms, interviewing former NeoNazis, and reading through the daily Google alerts I had set up for both white nationalism and white supremacy.
I started to dread those Google alerts, because what they told me — and what’s been confirmed by statistics — is that the incidents of antisemitic hate have been on the rise.
Being under deadline stress, immersing myself in antisemitism and hate, and being acutely tuned into the news wasn’t great for my mental health. I started to hate writing. At one point I broke down and told my husband maybe I should just pay back the advance and give up the idea. I wondered why I ever thought I could tackle a subject like this. I hated my life.
Watching Ted Lasso was the oasis of nice in my horrible 2021 world. But it was season 2 Episode 5 — “Rainbow” that saved me.
WARNING #3 BELOW THERE BE SPOILERS
Fairy tales do not start nor do they end at the dark forest. That’s only something that shows up smack dab in the middle of the story, but it will all work out. It may not work out how you think it will or how you hope it does. But believe me, it will all work out, exactly as it’s supposed to. Our job is to have zero expectations and just let go. Ted Lasso, Season 2 Ep 5
The Rainbow episode doesn’t just play homage to some of my favorite feel good rom-com movies — what spoke to me was that it deals with the “dark night of the soul” part of the hero’s journey; the point where the hero/shero is pushed to their limits and all seems lost. It’s when we’re so lost in that dark forest we can’t see the light.
Both Isaac and Roy are in that place, for completely different reasons. They’ve both lost their connection to the game, Roy because of injury and Isaac because he’s now team captain and the Greyhounds have been on a major losing streak.
Ted enlists Roy to help Isaac, and it has a happy ending for both of them. Isaac rediscovers his joy in the game, and Roy realizes he hates being a pundit, and that he’s actually a really good coach.
The montage set to the Rolling Stones song “She’s a Rainbow” (which we already know is Leslie Higgins’ ring tone for his wife) had me in tears. Watching Isaac rediscover his love for the game, seeing his smile as he played pickup football at the council estate (Yank translation: housing project) where Roy grew up, made me realize that I, too, needed to reconnect with my passion for writing.
Every morning after watching that episode, I played “She’s a Rainbow” when I showered in the morning, and because music is so associated with emotion for me, it gave me the courage I needed to keep going with the story, to find my way out of the dark forest and into the light.
That novel, SOME KIND OF HATE, comes out on November 1st. Without Ted Lasso Season 2 Episode 5, it might not have happened.
PS: I set the ringtone for my husband, who had to put up with me being in those dark woods for almost an entire year, to the Rolling Stones song. The book is dedicated to him for his love and support.