Friday, August 5, 2011

Turning Out The Lights

The final episode of the television series "Friday Night Lights" was aired on NBC a few weeks ago, and while I have not been a wholly faithful viewer, I will miss it.

In case you haven't seen it (and, to paraphrase Bob Uecker, judging by the ratings most of you have not), Friday Night Lights was set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and centered around high school football coach Eric Taylor and his family.  It never attracted a strong viewership, apparently at least in part because NBC never made up its mind whether to market it to men as a football show or to women as a family show.

But to me, plain and simple, it was a coach's show. And not just any one. The best, ever.

Sure, there were lots of story lines and sub-plots that were compelling. The show did a great job of examining, honestly and unblinkingly, small-town America issues like alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, and military service that many face. My favorite character in the show (other than Eric Taylor), Tim Riggins (portrayed masterfully by actor Taylor Kitsch), was at times a James Dean anti-hero, at times a full-blown Pat Tillman-esque hero.

There are many other memorable characters as well. Landry and Vince and Buddy and Matt and Smash all deal with problems that many high school athletes, parents, and supporters face.

But the one thing that they all have in common is that they were changed by Coach Taylor, and shaped forever, and forever to the better, by being a part of his team. Every episode had at least one scene where, even if you're not a coach, even if you never wanted to be a coach, you would get "it" when you watched.

Eric Taylor was admittedly a tougher coach on his players than I am, which is one thing that I admire about him. But it was always "tough love" not just tough. He truly cared about his players, and that concern would always shine through in the end. Here's Coach Taylor at his most inspirational:

But Taylor wasn't always concerned about winning or losing, at least not just on the football field. While I sometimes wish I was the Coach Taylor above, I hope I am sometimes the Coach Taylor below:

The good news is that ESPN Classic has purchased the rights to Friday Night Lights and is re-airing the first season now. If you are a coach, ever wanted to be a coach, or ever wondered what the heck makes coaches tick, I highly recommend you tune in.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.