Friday, November 12, 2004
Friday Night Lights
Football is the greatest game played on the earth. If you have any doubts about that, go see Friday Night Lights.
The movie tells the story of the 1988 Odessa Permian Football Team. Odessa is a small town in West Texas. For those of you unfamiliar with the religiosity of football in Texas, remember this fact. Most high school stadiums in Texas have room for a crowd roughly double or triple the actual number of residents in the town. Each Friday, every seat is full. Fans are ferocious. The line between hero and chump is divided along the win/loss column. State Champions are held in an esteem that closely rivals that of deity.
Friday Night Lights spins a yarn that could be found about any high school team. Every team has its star player, silent workhorse, and glory hound specialist. Every team has one or more players who must come to grips with the reality of season and career ending injuries. All these egos must come into harmony on (and off) the playing field. In no other sport do 11 players try to coordinate their movements towards a common goal.
What does football teach? Teamwork, primarily. But it also teaches something far more important. Football teaches you that, no matter how often you are knocked down, spun around, or otherwise have your clock cleaned, you get up. You get up, go back to the huddle, and get back on the line. Its no use complaining about the last failed play, or gloating about the yardage you just gained. Why? Because in a few seconds that big, ugly, and terrorizing lineman across from you is going to come at you again. Football does not allow for interpretations of the events on the field. You either get the first down, or you don't. You either score, or you don't. Everyone is given the same amount of time. Its what you do with that time that matters.
Tonight, across America, millions of people will pour into high school stadiums to cheer on their favorite team. Games will be decided by last minute field goals and plays run on fourth down with inches to go. Football, like life, is a game of inches.
In the end, the Odessa Permian team fell short of the State Championship by about a half-yard. I know how that feels. It is really hard to walk away from a game you've played your whole life knowing you'll never strap on the pads again.
So that's why every August I make a point to drive by High Schools in the late afternoon. It reminds me of what I miss - the guys, the girls, the game.
And most of all, I miss the lights on Friday night.