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Posts Tagged ‘Friday Night Lights’

Again with the late-to-the-TV-party thing.  (If you’ve read about my love for Friends, Gilmore Girls and The Muppet Show, you won’t be too surprised.)

Friday Night Lights aired its final episode a few weeks ago. About a week later (not actually knowing the finale had just aired), J and I decided to watch the first few episodes.

Well. We were hooked instantly. And we’ve been regularly visiting Dillon, Texas, ever since.

The biggest surprise is why it took us this long to start watching the show. Because although Dillon is fictional, in some ways it might as well be Midland, where I grew up. Long before I joined the Midland High marching band, my internal compass, and almost everyone else’s, pointed toward Midland Memorial Stadium on Friday nights.

Our football team does not have a storied history, like the Permian Panthers down the road in Odessa (subjects of the original Friday Night Lights book and film). The year I was in eighth grade, my neighbor Steven was one of the star seniors on the MHS team, and I don’t think they won a single game. Their losses were made more bitter by the stunning success of our crosstown rivals, the Lee Rebels, who won State three times when I was a teenager. (My sister – unbelievably – married a Lee grad, but I don’t think she will ever sit on the Lee side at the crosstown game.)

No matter what the scoreboard says, or what colors you wear, the culture of football in Midland runs deep. We idolized the boys who wore those jerseys on Friday nights; we shook our heads when some of them (always players from Lee, of course) got bailed out of trouble by their coaches. And when the Bulldogs made the playoffs in 2002 (for the first time in I won’t tell you how long) and went all the way to State, the whole town went wild for them. I was in college by then, but I made it to nine of that season’s sixteen games, and sang the alma mater with tears in my eyes. (And watched my sister, that year’s Student Council president, walk out onto the field at Texas Stadium to exchange goodwill gifts with the other team.)

Admittedly, the culture in a two-high-school town, or in a big city like Dallas where my husband grew up (their town had six high schools), is a bit different than somewhere like Dillon. But the show still captures the West Texas football culture, and does it so authentically that I keep thinking (and saying to J): I know these people.

I know that coach, his eyes squinting in the West Texas sun, doling out equal parts praise and tough love to his team. I know those boys, cast in a role they aren’t quite prepared for, blinded by the glare of stadium lights and bent under the weight of a whole town’s expectations for them. I know those women, with their perfectly styled hair and their manicures and their loud laughter and high-pitched “How are youuuuu’s?.” And yes, I know those people who roll their eyes at the whole football culture, but who get caught up in it anyway, whether by choice or family connection or because it’s useless to resist.

As Serenity said a few weeks ago, local sports are my favorite because of the heart, and because of the stories. I loved watching the Midland High Bulldogs because I knew them. I’d been watching some of them play football since fourth grade, when my sister was a cheerleader for the local peewee league. They came over to our house on the weekends, and some of them were in my youth group. I knew their stories, and football was a vital part of those stories. Which is why I love watching Matt Saracen and Tim Riggins and the other guys on Friday Night Lights. I know their stories. And football is a main character in all of them.

Admittedly, this is hard to understand if you’re not from Texas, or if you don’t care for sports, or if you didn’t grow up in a small town. But if you are or you do or you did, you understand the magnetic pull of a show like Friday Night Lights. And for a small-town Texas girl like me, well, this show resonates so deeply I can’t even explain it to you. From the sunset-soaked skies of the opening credits to the flashes of blue and gold on the field, to Coach Taylor’s look of steely determination and the quiet integrity of these boys who are learning what it means to be men, I love this show. And no wonder. I grew up here. These are my people.

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