Friday Night Lights

Why would anyone want their kid to play football?  I have a son and he opted for other sports, but I have a grandson. He’s built like a linebacker and loves the game. This is going to be a movie review but even deeper we’re going to talk a little about the “love of the game.”

Alive Media Magazine September 2017 friday night lights show posterThis is his fourth year. He works hard at the game. Even before the practice season started, I’d look out the window and he would be doing conditioning exercises in the heat. When I asked him if he wanted a cookie or something equally as enticing to an eleven year old, he would respectfully decline, hmm, “for the love of the game.”

Friday Night Lights profiles the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, The Permian High Panthers. I’ve known a few people who like, even love football, but high school football takes on a whole new meaning in Texas. I’m talking about full stadiums that hold 20,000 fans. Somehow I can picture Al Bundy, one hand in his pants the other wrapped around a beer telling the story of his glory days.

For most of the boys, it wasn’t just a game, winning the Texas State Football Championship was scholarships for education and even the dream of playing pro football. It was the hope of a way out when they honestly believed there was no other way.

Director, Peter Berg captured Texas football:  the guts and the grit and every bump, bruise and broken bone in between. Billy Bob Thornton (who else would be right for the part) plays Coach Gary Gaines. Others doing a noteworthy job in this true story are Garrett Hedlund, Amber Heard, Lucas Black and Tim McGraw.

Back to my Grandson.  I decided to ask him why he loves football so much. He plays for the Thunderbirds, lovingly known as the T-Birds. He actually articulated his reasons quite well. He said that it has helped him to become a better person; more disciplined physically, mentally and scholastically. He loves that the coach and the team have expectations of him that he strives to achieve. Knowing that his team needs him to do what is right, doing his part, teaches him to serve others. He tells me it is anything but easy but that his confidence is growing with each year as well as his physical and mental strength. Yes, and his passion as well!

As I watched Friday Night Lights I had all kinds of emotions. I talked to the screen a little and I wondered: Who are these people? After talking to my grandson I realized I knew these people—thirty years later and a few states away—but I knew these people.  They are the ones who fill the bleachers in your hometown and mine. Family and friends bursting with pride even when the scoreboard doesn’t reflect the real outcome… building men.

You can see the floodlights of the neighborhood high school from my grandson’s home.  If you listen closely, you can even hear the band. Grab a bleacher blanket and follow the lights, Friday Night Lights, for a night of fun; but look closely at the young men on the field.  Blink and you’ll miss it because before you know it they will be defending your country, tending you when you’re sick or carrying your neighbor out of a burning building.

As always, I welcome your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com