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Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose - R.I.P. Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)

There is a general perception about yours truly that I feel the need to clarify. When I watch television, my remote is not actually stuck on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPNU, ESPN The Ocho, The "NFL-NBA-MLB-NHL" Network-TV channel, or any FOX Sports Regional channel. In my current DVR rotation is Treme, Tosh.O, Holmes with Homes, Real Estate Intervention (ole buddy goes hard on those sellers man), Real Time with Bill Maher, and of course Robot Chicken.

However, there is one show that for the last five years has been a part of my life, much in the same degree as The Wire, Entourage, 24, Chappelle's Show, and The Boondocks, where it was not only preferred but it was required watching in the palatial ETSF estate, and that show was Friday Night Lights.

Now of course we all know about the book and the movie Friday Night Lights, as the legendary book "Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream" that was published back in 1990 by Buzz Bissinger. The book chronicled the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers in Odessa, Texas. From the book came the movie "Friday Night Lights" that came out in 2004, and it allowed us to further appreciate what Texas High School football is all about. If you don't know anything about Texas High School Football, there's only thing to say about it...

...its real.

Look, I'm from Oklahoma. You might have heard me say that once or a 1000 times. Generally, Texas and I are cool. Great cities to kick it at, beautiful women, good food, and always something to do. However, there are two things about the state of Texas that I can grow weary of hearing about real quick. The Texas Longhorns (Tuck Fexas) and Texas High School football.

I can talk crazy about the Texas Longhorns, its easy. Hell, they aren't even worth talking about right now, no one deserves to be talked about when you go 5-7. However, after going to enough Texas high school football games, I can officially admit that the state goes crazy over the game. Friday Night Lights helped tell that story. Its the reason why I name my fantasy football team the Boobie Miles' All-Stars in Brother JAG's league.

For me, the thing that was awesome about watching Friday Night Lights is that you always felt like the show was re-enacting real situations that high school football players go through. From the green Matt Saracen taking over as "QB1" for the Dillon Panthers as star QB Jason Street was paralyzed, all while taking care of his grandma. To "Smash" Williams playing the star runningback, much in the fashion of Boobie Miles, but with his focus helping his family have a better life he becomes desperate and takes steroids. To Riggins...who well, is just Riggins.

There's three things that happened in Friday Night Lights that made me begin to truly appreciate the show, as there was a point where with the writer's strike and a lack of creative storytelling I thought the show would go downhill.

Coach Eric Taylor went to East Dillon - In the show, Dillon High School is the only real school on the block. Nice amenities, a great football program, and to be honest...a whitewash of a student body. In Season 4, the town of Dillon re-opens East Dillon high school, where student body is...much more diverse. Its the angle that I always thought you'd never see out of FNL, because if you talk about poor people and people of color, folks tend to get sensitive. FNL did an awesome job with it, especially with the drawing of school district lines and how schools will flat out "lie" and make up fraudulent addresses so players can play where they want to. However, with Coach Taylor moving to coach East Dillon, that gave FNL the opportunity to give us...

Vince Howard - Also known as Wallace from The Wire. FNL gave us a black quarterback for the first time, and not to harp on race, but again its the path less traveled. Kenny's wrote the poetic wax on the tales of the African-American Quarterback and watching the story of Vince Howard unfold was dope. From watching Coach Taylor learn how to interact with his new QB1, to dealing with the overbearing parent who tries to get the "benefits" from college programs, and the everyday pressures of being a kid. That story needed to be told.

Coach Eric Taylor - In the pantheon of greatest fictional coaches of all-time, you've probably got Tony D'Amato (Any Given Sunday), Norman Dale (Hoosiers), Sweet Lou Brown (Major League), and Gordon Bombay (The Mighty Ducks). Well, you've got to now include Eric Taylor on that pantheon. Yes, I know he is from a television show, but we've never had a dynamic sports television drama like this before. Coach Taylor's was a coaches coach, was putting folks in their place, didn't take any mess, but always had a way to connect with his players. Hell, there were many times in the show I just wanted to suit up and get on the field. That's what all great coaches are about, at the end of the day, you want to suit up and play for the man. That's what Coach Taylor was all about, and the better making of men happened...fictionally of course.

We'll miss Friday Night Lights. In many respects it reminds me of The Wire, from the way the show was filmed (all live locations, no sets) to the revolving storylines, and for how real the storylines felt. Also like The Wire, the show at some point tried to do much and almost killed the viewerbase (the Landry murder plot vs. the banks drug smuggling ring) in the process. Ultimately, I've always thought FNL was placed on the wrong network (NBC to DirecTV 101), or the wrong day of the week (first Tuesday, then Friday, finished Wednesday). I think if FNL were to be placed on ESPNU, MTV, or HBO, then I believe the shelf-life of the show would've lasted longer. In the end, we'll always remember Smash. QB1. Vince. Mrs. Taylor. Luke. Street. Buddy Garrity. Voodoo. Riggins.

"Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose." -- Coach Eric Taylor


P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk (and hopefully on the radio soon) show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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