Farewell, Friday Night Lights

Reposted here, without permission, is my article from The Student Life at Pomona College. A few names redacted. The Season 5 finale of Friday Night Lights aired on NBC last Friday after being broadcasted a few months prior on DirecTV.

With its five seasons finally concluded after last week’s finale, it is safe to say that Friday Night Lights (“FNL”) is about much more than football. Case in point from the finale: as the quarterback launches a long, spiraling, slow-motion pass into the brisk Texas night, the camera cuts to all the characters in attendance, lingering on each of their faces in turn —first friends and families, then players and coaches. The outcome of the game hangs in the balance, but suddenly it doesn’t matter. It’s the people that matter: the residents of the fictional town of Dillon, Texas.

FNL paints a portrait of a contemporary American small town where football is king. The show revolves around Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), principal/guidance counselor, and her husband Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler). Both were nominated for Emmys in 2010. Their relationship has been consistently hailed as the “best portrayal of a marriage on TV,” and their conflicts make a perfect target for armchair feminist analysis. The pair shepherd two crops of high schoolers from adolescence to adulthood. Among the students are the strong, convention-breaking blond Tyra Colette (Adrianne Palicki), the stuttering, lovable replacement QB Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), the Taylors’ sexually rebellious daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden), ex-juvie recruit Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan, a talent from “The Wire”), and of course, the brooding heartbreaker Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch).

The show also features Esquire magazine’s 2010 Sexiest Woman Alive (Minka Kelly), a successful abortion (a rarity in TV), a Christian speed-metal band, a teenage girl football coach, and the best parent-teen sex talk you’ll ever see (record it and show it to your kids). There are a few gay characters, and a lot of half-time speeches and “Texas Forever” too. Enough of them for Slate magazine’s Meghan O’Rourke to call the show “singularly designed to make men cry.”

Derek Jeter's future wedding party?

Despite critical acclaim and a cult following, FNL never achieved widespread success, and it only survived past the second season because of a last second co-production agreement with DirecTV. FNL’s inability to make it mainstream may be a product of its lack of a core demographic audience—it was first marketed to men for the football and then to women for the drama. Yet I see this as more of an asset than a detriment: it’s masculine and feminine, teen and family, blue and red state.

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The Long Summer, Addendum

This post is an addendum to “The Long Summer,” June 30th.

Today, July 9th, Derek Jeter gained his 3,000th career hit with a shot into the left field bleachers in Yankee Stadium, on his way to a 5 for 5 Saturday afternoon, which also included the game-winning hit in the 8th. Up in a private suite, Minka Kelly cheered him on, looking like the hottest woman in the world. It was a historic moment for one of the greats of our era, whom I have hated with a vengeance since “the Flip” (relive at the end of this clip – also note how full the Coliseum is).

In Texas, Josh Hamilton hit a towering walk-off homerun into the second deck of the Ballpark in Arlington, capping off a 4 for 5 campaign that came just two days after Hamilton flipped a ball to a fireman in the stands, who lunged across the railing over the out-of-town scoreboard in left field and fell 30 feet, suffering injuries that led to his death. He left behind a young son in the bleachers, and was heard to be inquiring after him as he was carted to the hospital.

The A’s were up 6-5 going into the ninth, with their shutdown closer Andrew Bailey on the mound, who had not given up a homerun this year. They have now lost 5 of their last 6 games, and almost all their games out of however many games you want to go back.

The baseball gods have spoken. As a baseball fan, you watch the game for moments like Jeter’s and Hamilton’s. They are perfect. They draw tears of joy. 50,000 people go mad with you in the stands.

 

This man knows he is blessed by the baseball gods

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The Long Summer

Since my graduation more than a month and a half ago, I’ve been closely following my hometown baseball team, the Oakland A’s. With that great liberation and the end of scholarly burdens (“homework”), possibly forever, I finally have the time to watch/listen to important sporting events (the NBA Finals!) and catch enough A’s games to know all the players’ names and whether they’re good or sucky.

My love of baseball dates to the pre-conscious years, and that’s reason enough to follow the A’s. But this year feels different for a franchise that has seen tremendous highs and lows, at least in my twenty-three years of memory. The A’s are mired in a state of losing and limbo, with their dismal performance on the field – including an 11 game losing streak and last place in the standings – providing little distraction from the fact that the team has no idea where it will be in 2014 (see Howard Bryant’s ESPN piece). This story has strangely attracted me to the team. Call it a morbid fascination.

They’re a nobody team in nowhere land, facing the prospect of homelessness or another decade in the “O.co” Coliseum, the most decrepit 1 sporting venue east of St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Rays are wrapping up their final seasons at Tropicana Field before moving to new digs. There is no guarantee the A’s will play in a new stadium anytime soon, with the ownership gunning for an essentially suburban ballpark for San José, which happens to be territory they legally ceded to the Giants in the 90’s.

I too am in a state of limbo, facing the prospect of homelessness, having no idea where I’ll be in the fall. Unfortunately I have no corollary for Bud Selig, who is the main villain in the Athletics’ chronicle; I can only blame the lousy economy. This is the first time in my life I’ve wanted my summer “break” to end in June – probably because it isn’t a vacation at all. It’s hard to take a break from doing nothing, celebrate a hard week of not working, or even have a great conversation about all the nothing happening in my life.

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