So Long to Friday Night Lights

Those that never played high school football will never fully appreciate what the experience can do for a young man.

 

However, had you watched Friday Night Light at least once over the last five years you would have gotten the most realistic image that Hollywood could produce.

As a former Texas high school football player myself, every time I watched an episode I was drawn right back to my own playing days.

In the inaugural season when Jason Street and Tim Riggins pledge “Texas forever” I saw visions of me and my own teammates doing the same thing. While I never branded myself as a sign of dedication and unity like Buddy Jr. and Luke Cafferty did, I knew plenty of guys that did stuff pretty similar.

I knew pretty boys like Tim Riggins that got all the girls, farm boys like Cafferty that hit like freight trains, and geeks like Landry Clarke that did not belong on the field. We didn’t have official ‘rally girls’ that were as ‘dedicated’ as some of the ones on the show (at least mine never was), but we had something pretty close.

Perhaps the reason why the show never quite caught on with mainstream audiences is because it was too much like real life. Television is often used as an escape from the everyday; stepping right back into our own lives is not much of an escape.

However, those viewers that stuck around were reminded of a very important lesson in life. No matter what happens to you in life, if you attack the problem head on you can overcome it. It will not be easy most of the time and may not always work out, but you have to try.

Coach Taylor could have easily folded when he was robbed of his job at West Dillon, but instead he persevered and created another winner at East Dillon.

No one would have blamed Vince for quitting when the trouble started up with his Dad again, but instead he stuck it out and proved that he was a better man.

When the show was cancelled after the second season, I was not surprised. As much as I loved the first season, for some odd reason the show’s producer’s tried to make way too many changes to a lot of characters robbing the show of its authenticity. Thankfully, when the show was revived it returned to the formula that made it so good.

If you did miss the show, you will get a chance to watch it without having to buy the DVDs. ESPN Classic has started airing episodes starting with a marathon July 14 of the first season. Episodes will continue airing every Thursday at 9 PM and 10 PM.

The new Longhorn Network has announced that they too will air all five seasons of the show when the network launches in August.

As I watched the finale on Friday I found myself thinking back to the last game I ever played in high school. We were not that good that year. After being district contenders for as long as I could remember, we were staring a 2-8 finish right in the face.

Report cards had come out on game day, and thanks to the ‘no pass, no play’ law in Texas we lost the majority of our starters. That night we faced the undefeated district champs, and we were going to field a team of back-ups and junior varsity players.

I don’t remember the final score, but I do remember that it was not in our favor (but also not as bad as it should have been). What I do remember is that a bunch of kids that should have gotten killed that night gave a good team a hell of game.

We were focused. We were determined. We stood together. When we walked off the field that night we knew we played a great game; better than anyone would have imagined. We felt like we won even though we did not.

Why? Because just Coach Taylor always said on Friday Night Lights—clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

 

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