Friday Night Lights is a 2004 film based off of the true story of the 1988 Permian High School Football Team. Numerous historical inaccuracies aside, the film provides a great lens through which to look at the relationship between society and sports.
The Odessa of Friday Night Lights is a small town with only a few thousand people. The boys in the high school are constantly talking about how they want to get out of the city. For the boys, that means that they have to get a scholarship and none of the boys are convinced that they have any chance of landing a scholarship in anything but football.
So it is football that the boys pour themselves into. Two a day practices are not uncommon in sports, but these boys pour their entire lives into the sport. While some people might argue that the sports provide a healthy outlet for the boys, the obsession towards the sport becomes shocking, with one radio broadcaster commenting that the boys are “studying too much.” The Coach was threatened with losing his job if he didn’t win state. These boys place everything they have into the sport knowing that if they succeed the reward will be great, but few take the time to look back and realize that any injury could be career destroying. One of the tangent stories throughout the film is that of James “Boobie” Miles, a running back thought to be Heisman worthy who suffers a career ending ACL tear. He struggles to find his place without the sport and the hope of getting out of Odessa.
Another central theme to the film is that of the father-son relationship. Fullback Don Billingsley has an abusive, alcoholic father who is increasingly frustrated with his son’s sub-perfect performance. What becomes clear over the course of the film is that the father was merely projecting his own inadequacies and dissatisfaction with his life after he had won the state championship, a task he desperately berates his son towards.
In some ways, Coach Gary Gaines most important role in these boys lives is not as the coach of their team, but as someone that they can look up to. He is constantly not only looking out for the boys physical well-being, but he is also trying to guide them into becoming good young men. At half-time of the championship game, he doesn’t attempt to give them a rousing speech on how winning is not being perfect. “It is about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth and that truth is that you did everything you could.”
Coach Gary Gaines embodies the greatest part of sports, it’s most valuable contribution to society (in my opinion). It provides people with the drive and determination to be the best person that you can be. It promotes teamwork, diligence, and looking out for your fellow man.