In the pilot episode of the NBC’s Friday Night Lights, star quarterback of the Dillon Panthers, Jason Street, is about to lead a group of peewee football players in prayer when one of the inspiring athletes asks, “Mr. Street, do you think that God loves football?” to which Jason earnestly replies “I think that everyone loves football.” Although this might be true in the fictional Dilllon, a small Texas town that closes all of its businesses on Friday afternoon in order to focus its attention the object of its devotion, this was not true in the small suburb of Germantown, Tennessee in the 1980’s.
My high school football team won the state championship many times under the guidance of my best friend’s father, a decorated and highly respected coach. Our cheerleaders were also national champions. Although I did attend one football game my freshman year, eager to ascend the high school hierarchy by showing my support of the untouchable players and their bubbly cheerleader girlfriends, my attentions and allegiances quickly turned elsewhere. Within a year’s time, I was dressed all in black, wearing karate shoes and dark red lipstick, going to the Antenna club to punk shows, and sitting at the “cool” table in the lunchroom, where a lot of time was spent talking about good art, good music—and how much we disliked football and the social system that it seemingly upheld. We made some good points—but we were also sometimes self-righteous, arrogant, critiquing the process of labeling by, ironically, doing it ourselves.
Fast forward twenty years(ish): Two of my most thoughtful and culturally savvy friends encourage me to watch what they see as the best show on network TV, Friday Night Lights. I started watching it one evening, and realizing it was about football, immediately began to question the taste level of my friends: how could these artistic, complex, critical thinkers watch a show about football?
But I pressed on and, although football was and still is a foreign language to me, I grew to love football because these characters that I grew to love love it. And I realized that Friday Night Lights is a show very much about learning how to truly see another human being, how to peel back the layers of all too easy stereotypes to expose raw, painful, and beautiful humanity.
The above comments provide the context and background story for how I fell in love with this show. My brief analysis of some elements of the show itself can be found on the Relief Journal Blog.