‘Friday Night Lights’ Happened Long Before 1989

By Gregory Moore
Updated: October 9, 2004

SAN ANTONIO, TX.— – Okay the movie “Friday Night Lights” has hit movie theaters over the weekend and I’m sure that many people across the country will be taking in this story about a West Texas team called Odessa Permian and that magical season when they took on Dallas Carter. Yet have we all forgotten that in thousands of towns and cities in this country, “Friday Night Lights” happens each and every Friday night? Are we that awestruck with the making of a movie from a good book that we soon forget what has happened prior to 1989 and what has happened since then? Evidently so but let’s do a ‘recap’ of what high school football is all about.

The first time I remember high school football being a national deal was when the USA TODAY national paper came online. The Gannett paper published the first national rankings of high school teams and I remember a cross-town rival being made the top team in the nation while going to school in Cincinnati. That school was Moeller High School and it is legendary a football program as that of Permian. As a matter of fact the program is probably bigger and stronger than Permian’s if you start doing some research. One of Moeller’s legendary coaches was Gary Faust and one of the ‘rumors’ that floated in the early 1980s was that he made his team take ballet lessons. Just in Cincinnati I could name you three or four football programs today that are very good caliber programs. Moeller, Elder, and Princeton are the three that come to my mind off the top of my head.

If I wanted take this further than just my ‘childhood’ I could. The state of football in Ohio is just as big as it is right here in Texas. And the state of football in Florida or California is just as big as it is in Ohio. We can go on and on about which state has the bigger football program and that would last for years but the bottom line is this: Permian is just another school who has a storied past of high school success on the grid iron. That may be a simplified faction of the story but that’s my perception of the reality. The movie is trying to depict a time that is ‘magical’ and that simply isn’t the case. Once again Hollywood is colorizing an aspect of our sports society and it just amazes me how this happens so easily.

I’ve been to my share of football games over the years both as a fan and as a professional journalist. In all my times of attendance I have never seen anything different whether it was in Ohio or in Texas. The teams may have different names. The offensive schemes may be different and the defensive plays may all look identical but one thing is certain about the game itself. The fervor of the event is the same no matter where you go and the reactions from the schools is always the same. In other words “Friday Night Lights” simply is depicting something that happens every Friday night in the fall from New Haven, CT to Honolulu, HI.

Maybe the movie can do something that word of mouth advertising can’t do and that is help promote a part of football that is still poor in some regards. Don’t get me wrong; where there is a way to influence a sport, corruption is definitely in the midst of it all. But I am talking about the purity of the game itself. I’m talking about the blood, sweat and tears that the kids put out to endure the memories of a lifetime. If this movie can help promote a time of childhood innocence in the audience then I’m all for it. Just remember that this is a movie and not everything is historically accurate. If you want true realism, maybe it is time to go to a high school football game in your area and see “Friday Night Lights” for yourself.