Sunday, 4 March 2012

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose my attention

For anyone out there like me it's a lonely time right now being an NFL fan. Not much going on in the real world of American Football so I've headed to the fictional world of Dillon, Texas and the superb tv show (currently on Sky Atlantic) called 'Friday Night Lights'.

I feel entitled to watch the series with a clear conscience having read the seminal novel of the same name written by H.G.Bissinger and published in 1990.

I read the book on holiday about seven or eight years ago and it struck me as a really stark view of small-town Texas in the late 1980s, where the decline of the oil mining industry had devastated a community that loved its high-school football team, the real-life Odessa Permian Panthers.

A film was made, yes, also of the same name in 2004, which tried but failed to capture in a few hours the extreme level of detail that was covered in the book. The book in fact was voted #4 overall in the Sports Illustrated top 100 sports books of all time.

The tv series, which originally aired in the USA in 2006 and a few years ago on ITV in the middle of the night, is now on the rather snazzy Sky Atlantic, home to some heavy-hitting US drama. (BTW - One show you may not watch but is quite quirky is Hung -I'll leave you to imagine what Hung means, but lets just say it's not about suicidal people.)

The tv show follows the life of the fictional Dillon Panthers, a high-school team which is part of the fabric of the town, and pretty much the only thing that people watch, listen to or talk about during the season.

Unlike the real Permian Panthers in 1998, where racism existed as the norm, the 2006 Dillon Panthers are set in a world where black and white and South American teenagers all co-exist in harmony.

The townfolks lives revolve around the fortunes of the Panthers in the tv series, with a rich business man (a car dealership owner) having a huge influence over the team's affairs; a coach who is yet to prove himself; a coaches wife who is the school's guidance councillor; a starting quarterback who is paralysed in episode one; a star running back who is from the ghetto; and a star fullback who looks like he should be in Twilight (see him above wearing #33).

I'm 14 episodes into series 1, and absolutely addicted to the show. I watched about four episodes today and even my wife was surprised that it wasn't all football highlights.

The show is about growing up, about transitioning from boyhood to adulthood, a transformation that is imposed on high school football players at such an early age that they lose touch on reality before they even get to college.

I try to think back to when I was in high school (aged 12-15). There was absolutely no hope in hell that one person would come along on a dark damp Friday night to watch me play sport, so thinking that 17 and 18 year old's playing varsity high-school football in front of tens of thousands of fans is pretty much blowing my mind.

Because I run three internet based American Football leagues (playing a game called Action PC football) I have a number of virtual American friends. Over the coming weeks I'm going to delve into their high-school football experiences and find out if Friday Night Lights is fact or fiction.

Already today I spoke to one of my friends from Tennessee, who played for the Hickman County High School Bulldogs. He told me that in his state there is a high-school player that I should be looking at named Jacob Tucker. Always happy to visit Dr Google I found a highlights video for the young Mr Tucker and blow me if he isn't a strong arm passer, who runs like a stallion and also plays defensive end and linebacker.

If anything I can pretty much guarantee that Jacob is worshipped by his local community in Perry County, Linden, Tennessee.

I only wish I could have experienced all of that as a teenager, instead I couldn't kick a football (the round one) and I couldn't out run a warthog with a limp. About the only sport I had any degree of success with was hauling a javelin, but I was no Steve Backley.

I'm now ready for season two of Friday Night Lights as I continue my mission to cram as many American Football stories into my brain as humanly possible. Maybe the offseason in the NFL isn't that bad as I can find out about high-school football and report it back here.

No comments:

Post a Comment