When you read Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights after your senior year of high school in 1991 because you had no idea what you would do with the rest of your life and still held onto the small bit of hope that standing the sidelines in your ill-fitting pads and watching your own high school team win State championships gave you. Reading about Boobie Miles’ quixotic dream of getting out of a town where he was “just another nigger” coming to an end after a season-ending ACL injury despite the school spending more of its budget on sports medicine than the English department, the sheer luck that even got the team to the state playoffs on the flip of a coin, the seeming ease with which their head coach could just leave them all to coach linebackers at Texas Tech the next year: all of these cleared your palate of any perceived purity of the sport. And in 2004, almost 15 years after the book was published, when a movie adaptation was released and a popular TV series adaptation soon followed in 2006 that ran until 2011, and now, more than 25 years after the documented season, Friday Night Lights has entered the realm of American trope, a three-word cultural flashpoint whose connotations almost everyone knows. And now that those original players are in their late forties and in varying degrees of recline or decline after being made to feel immortal at 16 years old, the brief excerpts of their much longer lives have morphed from documented nonfiction to fictionalized national TV mythology: the coach comes back to the team after one year at Texas Tech (er, Methodist), female characters like the coach’s wife and daughter become just as focal as the players, and each season is a laboratory for values that everyone involved with the ’88 Odessa Permian team would probably consider overly effeminate, liberal, and/or big-city, and your Jewish Upper East Side friend Sarah, no fan of football or heartland values, says it’s her favorite TV show.

What are the Sneaky Feels?

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AuthorJohn Proctor