Friday Night Lights
By pcr on Tet 23, 2004
Friday night's cinematic outing was, appropriately enough, Friday Night Lights. I was drawn to the movie because we live in Texas and because, until I moved here 20 years ago, I had no concept of a high school football game selling out Texas Stadium, the Houston Astrodome or being broadcast on ESPN. I do enjoy football but this is a whole other dimension of genuine fanaticism. In the movie, the whole town is obsessed with the team and all the businesses close on Friday afternoon with signs 'Gone to the Game.' The boosters put pressure on the coach, brilliantly played by Billy Bob Thornton, to win the state championship. The adults in the town take pictures of their children with the high school players. Then the players have their own family situations and dysfunction to deal with. Probably the most telling dialogue in the movie occurs when one player says "Cmon, lighten up. We are only 17" and another responds, "I don't feel 17. Do you feel 17?"
Technically, as a movie, Friday Night Lights is great. However, as you see the level of pressure on these kids, it is horrific. High intensity football as it is played in large schools with brutal hitting and serious injuries that are not properly repaired is not a pretty picture. Fortunately this movie occurred in 1988 before rampant steroid use or I am sure that would have also happened. Its happening now in the large high schools in the Dallas area where we live. The following article discusses steriod use and denial in Plano, Texas.
My reaction to this display of over-the-top high school athletics is to think of the horrific practice condemned explicitly in the Old Testament called "passing your children through the fire to Molech" which is an idiom for sacrificing your children by burning them. However, the barbarity of child sacrifice, or even Roman gladiatorial combat, seems to be alive and well in high school athletics where winning is everything and no one counts the cost in physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological terms. Where is the line between excellence in athletics and abuse of high school students? This movie shows it is not hard to cross over that line.