Saturday, April 4, 2009

11. Friday Night Lights

I freely admit it: I am obsessed with the television show Friday Night Lights. Please don’t invite me to do something on that evening, the answer will be no; I will be at home faithfully watching at 9 pm.

When I announce my enthusiasm for this show the response is invariably something along these lines: WHAT??? You like a football show??? (I do like football, but that is a different story). FNL is not about football. It is about people whose lives have football as a common denominator. Football is just the back drop, serving as a binding to hold the story together. Yes, I’m sure it can be classified as a “soap opera.” But it is a damn good one, with believable characters that are always fully human.

In almost every episode there is for me an “ah-ha” moment, where I think they got that right: Coach’s grabbing Smash at his college try-out and saying to his face God has placed you HERE to do what you’re best at. Julie’s looking expectantly in the mirror after her first sexual experience to see if she notices a difference. Tyra’s Yes, ma’am. Matt’s grandmother relying on a member of her Sunday school class to take her to a doctor’s appointment. Sexy, smart Tami’s talk with her daughter about sex, a mixture of sadness and relief.

And then there’s Buddy. Dear, dear Buddy. I know him; he is familiar to me. A middle-age man carrying too much weight, his youthful good lucks still apparent. Always wanting to do what’s best for his family, his friends, his business, but sometimes getting waylaid by his passions. A car dealer and head of the team boosters, he would cut off his right hand to save someone or something he loves.

When the movie version of Friday Night Lights came out I said to two teenage boys in my youth choir, That was my life in high school. And indeed that is true. The original story took place in Odessa, Texas, a place even grimmer and drier than Lubbock. Life in both places was governed by sports schedules and church. My family had season tickets on the 50 yard line to the Texas Tech football games and even occasionally traveled out of town to watch the Red Raiders play. And equally important was high school football. I wouldn’t have missed a Friday night under the lights for anything. My brother played as did my high school sweetheart.

Since I had a boyfriend on the team Friday nights were really all about after the game. And there was quite a build-up to that, beginning with a pep rally at school in an auditorium filled with screaming, hormone-laced teenagers, led by the cheerleaders (in my day the popular, and yes, loose, girls), all for the benefit of the incredibly handsome young men dressed up in coat and tie, sitting on the stage.

The football game itself produced a comraderie among the fans that I’ve rarely experienced since. Homecoming meant that the girls were weighed down by huge mum corsages laden with floor length ribbons, cowbells and miniature footballs. A feeling of being on top of the world was in the air when we won, tears and despondency when we lost. A loyal group of fans would cheer the team as they returned to the bus, no matter what the outcome of the game.

I would separate from my girlfriends at this point and wait for my boyfriend Tommy to come by my house. A win would often mean a trip out for a burger and a loss would usually keep us at my house. We did not go to the wild parties depicted in the show; we wanted to be alone. With eyes and ears out for my mother, passion was the name of this game, whether it was in Tommy’s car or on the couch in the living room. The game results dictated that passion, too: enthusiastic and celebratory if we won; quiet and ardent if we lost.

Perhaps watching Friday Night lights is just my middle-aged sentimentalism. Yet perhaps it is more, for it brings up that nagging question of leaving Texas, leaving a husband, leaving family. Leaving a familiar, comfortable, yes good way of life for something new in this state of Maine.


Donna said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. I check it periodically. Texas still misses you! I wish we were close enough to come to one of your dinner parties.

Sage said...

Hey, you have to begin watching: "Glee". Preview tomorrow night.