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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Friday Night Lights

Just like Frank at Chrome Waves did, I decided to watch Friday Night Lights especially to hear Explosions in the Sky's score. As a fan of EitS, I found their "from total silence to total violence" music perfect for this story based on the 1988 Odessa-Permian Panthers football team. As someone who went to many Texas high school football games in middle school and high school, I was already familiar with the world that FNL is set in.

In Texas, high school football is a big deal. In a lot of cases, the stadium is a social epicenter for the town. The players, the coaches and the team represent the hope of the community and a lot of faith is sunk into them. Friday Night Lights shows a small town's intense obsession with the sport (local businesses close down for games, for example) and takes a rather neutral look at it. The town expects perfection with a winning season and a state championship, thus raising the pressure level to a rather unrealistic view. While the town's expectations are represented, what is at the heart of this film is something I've never seen a film about sports: the idea that there is more to the experience of playing than winning and losing games.

As someone who is very turned off by lines like "Winning is winning" and "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing," I was deeply moved by Friday Night Light's message. Billy Bob Thorton's character, Coach Gaines, delivers it in a very memorable speech before the team goes back for the second half of the state championship:

"Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn't let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn't one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentlemen - you're perfect!"

That speech goes beyond the playing field for me. It goes beyond the season, the playoffs and the championship ring. While the desire for a state championship is there every year, there is a bigger desire for the players to get out of town and doing something more with their lives. This is also a central theme in American Graffiti and a theme I greatly relate to. I know living in Odessa is not the same as living in Kingwood, but the desire to step outside of the comfort zone of your hometown has been driving me for years. Not to imply that one's hometown is bad, but if one is curious about what else is out there, it's best to look somewhere less familiar.

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