Friday Night Lights: The Rocky of High School Football

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There are 2 things I know for sure about the state of Texas: it’s very conservative and people go crazy about HS Football. Look I think every area takes pride in this sport (including here in San Diego) but there is something about the Longhorn state and its love for high school football. I compare it to HS Hockey in Minnesota where once again people care a little too much about young athletes.

But if you want to see what makes it special in Texas, you need to watch “Friday Night Lights.” The film perfectly encapsulates the way that sport bleeds into its community while also telling a story that is reminiscent of the first “Rocky.”

The Permian High Panthers had a lot of expectations thrown upon them with star Boobie Miles constantly flaunting his exploits. The running back has all the skills to be great and he makes sure everyone knows about it. But at the end of the first game, Boobie tears his ACL and the team has to survive in order to reach the State Tournament.

At this time, players who tended to shy away from pressure now must embrace it including QB Mike Winchell and RB Don Billingsley who’s father never lets up on him. As you would expect, the team struggles without its star early on but finds a spark that helps lead them to the State Finals. And although I won’t spoil the ending, I gave this review its title for a reason.

What makes “Friday Night Lights” so good though is not just how these young kids give their all to achieve their dreams but instead how they deal with all the pressure. Winchell, the quarterback, wants to get out of this small town but just can’t seem to step up when it matters. And Billingsley cannot get out of his father’s shadow, a legend in the area, which forces him to confront another set of demons.

Even Coach Gary Gaines, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is not immune to the pressure as even before the season people question him. And as autumn goes on, more and more criticize his coaching as well as give some vague threats. What’s great though is how the coach handles it. When fans tell him what plays to run, he just smiles and nods cause he knows what is best for his team.

And this is what hurt “We Are Marshall” last week, they had too many characters with stories where not enough received the time they needed. While in “Friday Night Lights” there is a more centralized focus on a smaller group dealing with the pressures of the town. Even Boobie Miles has his own catharsis experience, which says a lot because he is obnoxious at the beginning of the movie.

Now I am sure you could criticize the movie for being kind of like a sports soap opera but there’s just something about it. I mean you hear so much about how big high school football is in Texas but “Friday Night Lights” sure paints a pretty clear picture. And since this is based on a real team, I’m sure liberties were taken yet the Panthers are a Texas team even I would root for.

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