They broke his neck. The star quarterback. The guy they spent an hour building up. The character the whole show seemed centered around or at least the team and the coach in the show did.
Jason Street. Q.B.1. The kid with the golden arm and bright future.
The writers broke his neck.
I remember sitting there watching that first episode of Friday Night Lights and thinking, there has to be some sort of Disney-like ending coming. They can’t possibly break their lead character in episode one. Then, after a torturous montage set to haunting music (a soon to be trademark of the show) the coach walks into the kid’s room and reaches for his hand (during a beautiful speech playing over). The camera pans close and I thought,
oh here we go, now he’s going to grab the coaches hand to provide hope to us all.
Coach grabbed the quarterback’s fingers and QB1 never moved.
Great, I thought, another show that will break my heart every week like these stupid hospital and crime dramas where someone’s always gotta die. For some reason, I tuned in anyway the next week and the rest is television obsessed history.
It would be easy to say that I loved Friday Night Lights because of the impeccable writing. Because it was some of the best in the history of television. Save for the shark-jumping debacle of Landry and Tyra not only dating but then hiding a murder (I tend to block that portion out.) nearly every single scene of every single episode of this show was masterfully written, acted and shot. It would be easy to say that’s why I loved it. But that isn’t the only reason.
That quarterback’s broken neck is the key.
Jason Street was the symbol for all that was right with that show. Crap happens, but life ain’t all bad.
After all, it is a depressed Texas town, it wouldn’t be realistic if bad things didn’t happen. Of course, kids’ parents are absent or drunk or beat them up in school parking lots. Of course, someone gets pregnant and the town acts shocked. Of course, kids don’t make it for whatever reason, drugs or jail or both. Of course, the rich white kids get all the breaks and the nice equipment and the hotter cheerleaders. Of course, minority kids have it tougher and largely no one cares. If they left any of this stuff out of the show they couldn’t call it real.
This was not a football show.
What it was was a story about life. And often, in life, if you can look past all the junk there may just be hope and people who make you believe. Jason Street never walked again. In fact he spent a lot of his on camera time pretty darn miserable. But after a strange trip to Mexico (I try to block that out too) the kid starts to realize he can have a life even if it’s not as a D-1 football star so he goes out and gets himself one with a little help from a loyal best friend.
The kid whose dad is a drug dealer? His dad is still a drug dealer but he learns to identify himself outside of that and his mom works every day to stay straight for him. The girl who everyone wrote off? She goes to college almost in spite of herself. The screw up guy? Well, he screws up plenty. But I was right about him, there is a core of good running through that might prevail after all. And the nerd? He stays a nerd but he rocks out in his nerddom with the best band name ever. He’ll be a rich, middle-aged guy who still wears his Texas State Championship ring in Silicon Valley’s finest karaoke bars.
And the couple at the center of it all? Perfection. They argue. They fight. They laugh. They cry. (Well, she does. He never does.) They challenge each other and themselves and they work throughout it all. It isn’t pretty sometimes, but it’s always real.
That’s what I loved about this show. Everyone in it could be someone you know. The bad guys aren’t simply bad and the good guys might even be little heroes; perfectly imperfect heroes just like the people around you every day. Sometimes they crush you with their shortcomings and sometimes they surprise the heck out of you with the greatness they are capable of.
No matter what, they never let you down. You just have to look at them with the right kind of eyes.
Friday Night Lights was fiction. Obviously, I don’t know anyone who even comes close to a Texas high school football player or Rally Girl. But I do know a lot of people who have a little Tyra, or Jason, or Coach or even Tim in them and if I focus on the right stuff and not the crap, then they are all heroes too-perfectly, imperfect heroes.
In the last episode everyone moves on. Everyone leaves their old life behind and some even leave Dillon behind.
After a week of mourning my t.v. friends, I think it’s time for me to move on too and focus on the heroes in my own life with Clear Eyes. You know what they say about that, right?
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.