With the exception of attending an occasional Badger game when the temperature is just right (I'm quite literally a "fair weather fan"), I haven't historically had much interest in football. I may never understand what a down is, and to my uneducated eyes, every play looks like roughing the passer or holding of some sort. Being totally robbed of the college football experience certainly hasn't helped matters. Just this past weekend the New York Times ran a piece on my alma mater's long standing tradition of pigskin mediocrity, highlighting our ever-popular "Thucydides" cheer. Who needs a dance team, mascots, or the even the ability to run the ball, when you have The History of the Peloponnesian War on your side?
But my husband is from Oklahoma and worships all things Sooner; he plans each and every fall Saturday around OU's sacred schedule. So I wasn’t the least bit surprised when earlier this summer he suggested we adopt Friday Night Lights, the recently-wrapped NBC series about the trials and tribulations of a fictional high school football team in Texas, as our new "show". Sure, I might have preferred to keep up with the Kardashians, or at least with Khloe and Lamar, but I agreed to watch despite my lackof interest in anything gridiron. The attractive cast in the Netflix teaser coaxed out my inner Mrs. Robinson, and expecting little more than eye candy encased in shoulder pads and jerseys, I settled in to the first episode.
I won't spoil any plotlines for the uninitiated, but suffice it to say if you've watched even one episode (actually, much like Lay's Potato Chips, it's impossible that anyone can stop at one) you understand why I have fallen completely at this mercy of this 43-minutes-without-commercial interruption drama. Forget my children, forget work, forget the fourth night of dirty dinner dishes overgrowing the sink --I need my fix every evening. Sometimes I need two or three episodes in a row to reach my FNL high.
I've seen every episode of Friends at least three times, yet I've never wanted to spend the better part of my days hanging out in a coffee shop. I genuinely admired Six Feet Under but never thought for an instant about opening a funeral home. But there is something so intensely personal about Friday Night Lights that it has caused a sea change in my personal life. The folks of the make-believe town of Dillon feel like genuine friends. And football, high school football that is, is poised to become my new favorite sport.
My oldest son started at Madison West this year, but he's not, and probably never will be on the team. Any dreams had of touchdown glory were dashed during his participation in a 5th grade youth league where he discovered that in football you don't just get to hit, but that you must like getting hit as well. But the fact that I don't actually know anybody on the West High team won't deter me from attending this Friday night's sure-to-be-epic game against cross-town rival East. No, I have no idea what a Regent, much less a Purgolder, is, but I'll be totally disappointed if the excitement of this game doesn't live up to the hype surrounding the "Clash of the Cats" (the East Dillon vs. West Dillon showdown) in the Season 4 finale. Sure, it will probably feel weird to celebrate West's Homecoming at Madison Memorial's field (this would never fly in Dillon), but I plan, just like FNL's well-heeled boosters, to be swept away by the pageantry and emotion, even if it is set across the street from West Towne Mall as opposed to in the heart of West Texas.
My son is a bit embarrassed (ok, maybe horrified) that I am planning on going to the game. He's worried that I'll be "that Mom", the one that can't seem to separate her own high school experience from that of her child. Just wait till he finds out it's not my own glory days I'm trying to relive, but that of fictional characters from the Lone Star State. He's already requested that I sit far away from him and his friends, and perhaps that's for the best. I certainly don't want him to catch wind of my disappointment when I learn that the West High coach doesn't speak with a southern drawl or look a bit like Coach Taylor.
And he'd probably prefer that no one knows I'm his mother when I take to the locker room during halftime to deliver the "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose" pep talk.
But regardless of whether or the Regents win or lose, I have the yet-still-unwatched Season 5 waiting for me at my "homecoming". Perched on the living room couch, I will plan to savor each of these final 13 episodes. Because unlike my own high school years, Friday Night Lights is an experience that I wish would never end.