Clear Eyes, Full Hearts: Remembering Friday Night Lights

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The Dillon Panthers’Play like a champion today” – it’s just a rallying cry, sure. But beneath the “this is the most important thing you’ll ever do in your life” surface that generally characterizes Texas high school football, “Clear eyes, Full Hearts” embodies something infinitely more.

A cross between Varsity Blues and every high school drama ever made, Friday Night Lights was far from original. At the heart of it, itwas really just a take on why everyone and their grandma treats Texas High School football like it’s a Mayan Sun God who would require hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices … if that sort of thing was still trending. Even the characters were pretty hackneyed — the stud quarterback who takes a tremendous fall from grace; the cheerleader captain who dates him as per mandate of high school law; the reserved, scared shitless backup who comes into his own both on and off the field once he’s called upon to save the team; the hard-hitting, harder-chugging womanizer; the girl who hates herself for loving him and the incredibly talented, incredibly cocky, but secretly insecure star. Throw in your hard-ass but well-meaning coach, a super-supportive wife and a daughter with an enigmatic opinion towards love and linebackers, and you’ve got yourself a not-so impressive sports spot in the long line of cultural productions that are about sports, but not really about sports.  

There’s no question FNL joined this club. Between Matt Saracen quietly being the most emotional person in television history, the mythological buildup of what it means to win “state” and coach Taylor’s propensity to be the epitome of a “I don’t know who else to turn to, but I’m in the most serious bind of all time” guy, it’s pretty hard to say that FNL is actually trying to do anything groundbreaking. But the thing is, I don’t think it was ever trying to be groundbreaking. Rather, it was trying to be the ground – in the sense that life is lived based on certain foundations, and that we sometimes don’t pay as much attention to the stuff that molds us as much as we maybe should.

High school, despite all the One Tree Hill-ish mockery, is one of the more brutal institutions devised by mankind. Since it’s filled with people who are simultaneously no longer innocent yet still incredibly innocent, the growing pains are generally as agonizing as that time when Harry got Lockhart-ed and had to regrow a bunch of bones in one night. You could be a really hot girl who dates Jason Street one day and a total slut who’s a complete cancer to society the next. And for some reason, it’s really hard to do the reverse. You just so happen to fall on the wrong side of the rumor mill, and no matter how high up you were are on the ladder, you’ll inevitably land on that chute that brings you back to ground zero.

It’s a tough world, through and through. And since you’re trapped in that high school bubble for four years, you really only have two options: live in it just so you could one day live outside of it, or live in it and appreciate the bubble for what it is. It’s the difference between surviving within a situation and thriving within a situation. At the end of the day, it really boils down to your perception of the bubble.

Enter, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts.” Although simply a motto, it’s also an assertion as to how to understand our role in the teams we become a part of. How to work together within a common entity and making the end goal more than just an end goal; forging a sense of purpose and making it matter not because it’s something that a bunch of people told us was really important, but because the group, has managed to forge a sense of purpose totally removed from the suffocating hype.

It’s some journey-not-the-destination-type shit, except it’s the type of journey that’s most important. Not a journey for the purposes of tacking onto the life-resume, but a journey that would somehow be corrupted if it was used as life-resume polish. Something that you talk about in an interview not to get a job, but to tell someone what kind of personyou would bring to that job. Stay focused on what matters, appreciate what matters and care deeply about what matters – this is the message of “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts.” Not saying that you’ll go for two state championships and state finals in five years, but there’s no question Coach Taylor and Co.provide a winning life formula.

Senior > Georgetown

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