By now, everyone has heard of Friday Night Lights – whether it be the book by H.G. Bissinger published in 1990, the motion picture produced by Brian Grazer in 2004, or the television series starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton that aired from 2006 until 2011. Some even know the “real” Friday night lights – high school football in West Texas.
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on the film. Friday Night Lights is a perfect Friday night flick for fall.
The time – 1988
The place – Odessa, Texas
The who – the Permian High School football players
The dream – to win the state championship
The obstacles – a coach that pushes his players too far, parents living vicariously through their teens’ lives, and societal pressure
Two things come to mind when people outside the state of Texas think about West Texas – high school football and oil. So, if everyone outside the state knows about the teenage pig-skin programs, what do the people inside the state think? Football is life. Win at all costs.
Friday Night Lights follows Coach Gary Gaines (Hollywood great, Billy Bob Thornton), star Permian running back James “Boobie” Miles (Derek Luke), back-up running back Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young) quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), and safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) on their quest for a Mojo football championship. The season seems to be right on schedule, but things erupt when Boobie tears his ACL.
Coach Gaines is immediately under fire in the media and around town; a head football coach’s job is never safe in West Texas without wins and when a star player goes down, people panic.
As if the pressure isn’t already mounting for the kids, Billingsley is also faced with managing his father’s (country music star, Tim McGraw) drinking and humiliating outbursts. Like many other former football stars, Billingsley’s father continues to live in the past and is humiliated that his son is not performing up to his standards.
The season ends with a three-way tie in the district between Permian, their arch-rival Midland Lee Rebels, and Abilene Cooper. With a flip of a coin, Permian and Lee move on (yes, they really flipped coins to break a three-way tie in conference when determining playoff spots). Permian rolls through the playoffs and meets Dallas Carter in the state championship.
Watch the movie to find out what happens next….
Have you seen Friday Night Lights? Have you read the book? Did you enjoy the television series? I’d love to hear from you!
Rumor has it that another Friday Night Lights movie is in the works….
On a personal note, I was born and raised in Midland, Texas and I’m a proud Midland Lee Rebel. My father graduated from the first ever senior class at Midland Lee, as did my brother before me, and now my oldest nephew is a freshman. My mother has taught at Midland Lee for a long time (no years, I promise…you wouldn’t believe me if I told you), but not before graduating from Odessa Permian and participating on the Mojo Pep Squad.
Friday Night Lights, while fictional, does not stray far from the truth, and I highly recommend it to anyone attempting to understand the severity of high school football in West Texas. I was a student trainer in high school, and I remember a man who traveled in his trailer to watch the Midland Lee versus the Odessa Permian football game because he read Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. I grew up watching Lee play, lived the annual showdown with Permian, and was shocked that someone from thousands of miles away would drive just to watch high school kids play football.
West Texas football is a big deal. Maybe we’re crazy? But, we’re proud.