Maybe it’s cheating. It’s 53 hours versus 2 hours to tell a story. More than 2 days to get to know characters versus a small part of your afternoon. But I can’t let this go by without mention for the greatest piece of fiction ever produced about football, Friday Night Lights the TV Series.
Series creator Peter Berg knew he needed more time. Berg directed the film version of Friday Night Lights in 2004. Almost immediately after filming the movie, he began to conceptualize the story for television.
What Berg knew was that Texas High School Football is such an outsized, crazy, unique world that was impossible to truly capture in a film. He knew these towns had more personalities to explore, more intricacies to delve into, so that’s what he did. In 2006, Friday Night Lights (TV Series) aired on television. It lasted five seasons, winning multiple Emmys and a Peabody Award during its run.
If a great football movie is about great speeches, Friday Night Lights has about 50 of them. I probably say “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” about once a week to myself.
Once again, maybe this is an advantage, but, like all TV shows, Friday Night Lights has the time and space to establish its characters and situations so this phrase can mean something different throughout the series.
A great football movie is also about making you feel something. It’s about making you feel those goosebumps creep up your body as the hail mary is caught, as the back-up gets in the game and makes the big play. It’s all about those feels.
Friday Night Lights delivers those feels better than not just any football movie but maybe better than any piece of art the last decade (we’ll casually ignore the strange, murdery second season).
I am not a crier, but I will freely admit to crying probably at least ten times throughout the series. I cried twice during my recent rewatch of the pilot episode.
Sitting here thinking about all those feels moments, there are too many to name. By the time the show hit its stride, it could absolutely devastate you with one line of dialogue or one look by a character.
The finale of the show functions similarly to the ending of the film, Friday Night Lights, albeit much happier. But the key to the show exists in the final twenty minutes of the final episode of the show.
The East Dillon Lions (Dillon would be the fictional town replacing Permian) are preparing to play in the Texas state championship, and the players go through various exercises to calm their nerves. Some tap their feet incessantly. Some pray. Some even seem relaxed and joke around. Coach Taylor comes over to star quarterback Vince Howard, who was heading for prison before he met Coach Taylor. He bends down and says, “You may never know who proud I am of you,” which prompts Vince to respond, “You changed my life, coach.”
I could well up just thinking about this moment.
If you’re a fan of football or just good television, do yourself a favor and watch the greatest piece of art ever produced about the game.