Great Football Films – Friday Night Lights on Satellite TV
Friday. Night. Lights. Those three words still conjure up some of the most significant moments of my high school years. I can still remember the feeling in my gut before each game, all nerves and thrills, and the near-ritual of getting into uniform, (and I will admit right now that I was nothing more than the back-up kicker). Even with all the great sports movies in this genre, even with hours spent watching my NFL Sunday Ticket and following my favorite teams from local high school to professional, nothing I have seen has ever quite captured that essence that I remember so distinctly. Until Friday Night Lights.
The pressure, the portent, the passion and the pathos of every Friday night of football season in a small Texan town stand out in vivid seriousness in this extraordinary sports movie. The characters are gritty and real, and will surely resound for almost any viewer; anyone who has ever lived in a small town, anyone who has ever played football, or any high school sport, or hell, anyone who still remembers the mixed trauma and excitement of high school will find something to love – or cringe at – in this film. That real, almost documentary-like, quality is probably largely owing to the fact that the movie is based on a book by the same name, which in turn is based on a real town, high school, and people.
Like all great sports movies, Friday Night Lights is inspiring, but it’s not the maudlin, feel-good type of coddled inspiration. Instead it shows the startlingly difficult obstacles that stand in the way of success. It portrays the divisions caused by race, class, and age that threaten the main characters through constant, unspoken tensions. At the same time, the possibility of uniting together carries a promise of success. That’s what inspires me. Success is difficult and it cannot be achieved in some facile plot twist if it’s going to feel real. Let me assure you, there is nothing easy about the path to success for the Permian Panther football team.
I love other great sports movies, and especially great football movies. I’ve watched Rudy dozens of times, gladly cheering on his underdog character. But Friday Night Lights has a diversity of characters, some quiet, some cocky, some struggling and some superstars. I thought that spectrum was more real to my experiences, and I find myself sympathizing with each character in a different way – even those who didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, like Tim McGraw’s flawlessly executed part in the movie. Even the town itself becomes a character, taking its high school football perhaps a bit too seriously, promising great praise for its young athletes at the price of enormous pressure to constantly succeed.
Have I convinced you yet that you need to see this movie? It comes up fairly regularly on satellite TV, but make sure you get the HD version so you too can experience every bead of sweat, streak of mud, and drop of blood.
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