Guest Blog Post – Second guessing Friday Night Lights

By Brian Shea

[Editor’s Note: Ned Bitters is sleeping off a wicked hangover, so today we bring you a special guest column by Brian Shea.]

I love high school football, though I don’t quite know how I developed my affinity for the sport.

I liked going to games back when I attended school, but they didn’t stick with me that much. I guess I slowly started enjoying this level of the sport when I worked as a sportswriter. My area had some good players – a handful of guys went on to play Division I and a bunch more at Division II and Division III – but things never got too serious. Coaches really couldn’t big time you, so it remained fun.

Over the past few years I have re-discovered my love for the sport as a freelancer. I can make some cash on fall Friday nights covering games for my local paper. I have a pretty good system of keeping stats and can knock out a story with plenty of room before deadline. The games keep me entertained.

All of this adds up to why I have a conflicted relationship with the TV show Friday Night Lights” When it came on the air in 2006, I stayed away because I just think television completely fucks up anything it tries to accomplish with sports. Hell, the movies can barely get it right (i.e. Tim Robbins’ limp-wristed throwing motion in a fairly close look at what minor league baseball is really like,) so why should I expect TV to pull it off.

For a while the show didn’t even register on my radar. Then, it closed out its run last year with a season that had TV geeks wetting themselves. The show had bypassed all expectations and moved into that echelon of shows that some people think you need to watch in order to actually qualify as a contributing member of society. It had not yet reached the level of cultural importance that some people ascribe to The Wire, but it was starting its push.

Somehow I gave into the pressure and started watching. Part of it was because friends suggested it. Part of it was because I like to watch stuff via Netflix Streaming during lunch. Part of it was because of the aforementioned love of high school football.

Actually, that didn’t really play a part. If anything, it gave me reason to not want to watch it because I knew I would pick out every stupid mistake they made. So when I started to watch the pilot, I knew I had to suppress my urge to nitpick.

The people involved with the production luckily made such a fantastic television show that I didn’t have to work hard at holding back my complaints. Oh, I had them, but I fell in love with the characters – well, most of them – and pushed my pain-in-the-ass nature to the background.

I managed not to dwell on how Jason Street and Coach Taylor had such an incredible connection, yet no one else in Dillon knew or trusted him even though they hired him as football coach.

I looked the other way when I found out 15 episodes into the season that Smash had previous experience as a quarterback on the JV level yet no one ever considered moving him to that position when Street got hurt and Saracen had trouble adjusting to the position. It seemed totally normal that the new quarterback and star running back who had once been a quarterback never discussed this fact when they even had the same after-school job. Yep, totally normal.

I nodded with understanding when no one played on both sides of the ball and every freaking game came down to a last-second play.

In other words, enjoying the show caused me great physical pain at times. Even with the crazy melodrama of some of the storylines – Tyra’s sister is a stripper AND her Mom sleeps with her boss the first chance she gets – I could not look away. Coach Taylor brought us all together as he bit his lip and stared daggers through each and every one of us. I didn’t need long to understand why people like Craig Finn and Leslie Knope have fallen under his spell.

That’s because Riggins is so dreamy, the sky is the limit for Smash and Saracen is the leader of a new generation who will never be dispatched from his lofty QB1 position in Dillon.

I’m only a few episodes into season two. Let me enjoy that illusion for a little while longer, okay?

Brian Shea used to write for HoboTrashcan, but like Gladys Knight, he left us Pips behind to write for his own site, Regular Guy Column.

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