04.17.2013 | Erin Hallagan
Continuing our week of Staff Picks is Conference Director Erin Hallagan’s take on Friday Night Lights and how it helped reshape her image of Texas from a land of cowboy hats and red meat to a place she now calls home.
I first made the announcement that I was moving to Texas at a random family dinner – mostly to just say it out loud – to convince myself it was the right thing to do – to gage reaction – to be set in motion. I was as shocked as my parents when I heard the words escape my lips. But then, all of a sudden it was reality.
Austin was always an obvious fit for me, but definitely not the rest of the Lone Star state. In my mind, Texas was a desert of cowboy hats, come-to-Jesus churches, red meat, red blood, and of course football.
This is precisely the reason I did not want to watch Friday Night Lights. That, and I am absolutely, positively NOT a sports person. I’m repeatedly corrected on how it’s not “the second act” but second quarter of the game, how they’re not “characters” but players, it’s not “intermission” but halftime. Can you tell I’m more of a theatre person?
It started when I was just a girl, growing up in – to put it kindly – a rough part of Maryland. My father was outraged there were no girl sports in our county. Teams were only just beginning to accept co-ed rosters. So I was signed up for soccer.
Luckily for me, even though I didn’t have an athletic bone in my body, the other players found creative ways to welcome me aboard. My dad would repeatedly find me on the sidelines after practice, out-of-commission with a bloody nose. Apparently it was a running joke to see how many times my teammates could kick the ball square between my eyes. I remember laughing real hard after I had to get surgery years later to fix the broken vessels in my nose. On second thought, perhaps that was the laughing gas….
Then there was basketball. After finally being put into the game, and thrilled by the sudden attention the coach was giving me, I stopped in my tracks – ball in hand – to ask him if he liked my new shoes. He and my father ended up in the parking lot to exchange a bit more than words.
Baseball was my own damn fault. There are some lessons you only need to learn once. For instance, throwing the ball into the air, looking up to catch it only to find the blinding sun staring back, and then going home two-teeth-shorter than you arrived.
Needless to say, I went into the arts and never looked back. That is, until I moved here.
I chose to give Friday Night Lights a chance with the same enthusiasm I gave soccer and basketball. I thoroughly expressed my distaste for sports shows, and for angsty high school shows, and especially for the combination of the two.
Boy, was I surprised when the first episode came to an end that I had tears in my eyes and remote-in-hand, already going in for seconds. Even though the show was absolutely about football and teenagers, there were things that were even more absolute: it was raw, honest, painful, spiritual, hopeful, confrontational and I CONNECTED to it…
It was damn good writing, is what it was.
A pilot episode – or rather, a GOOD pilot – is a form of art. Opposed to establishing a laundry list of who and what we need to know, it will create a world-in-motion through unobtrusive introductions that need to immediately spark an audience’s interest, a narrative that immediately engages an audience’s attention, and a level of anticipation that immediately asks the audience to stay along for the journey.
At first glance, everything about Friday Night Lights screamed cliché. Yet, all in the sum of 45 minutes, the pilot locked me in for the remaining five seasons. Beyond that, I overcame some of my own stereotypes. Gradually, Texas was more than just cowboy hats, come-to-Jesus churches, red meat and red blood. It was a vast new world that was home to those with the same vulnerabilities I had out there on the soccer field. The same life-changing decisions I made at my family’s dinner table. The same pivotal feelings of community, humanity, acceptance, victory and loss that I finally felt in the arts. All of a sudden, Texas was home to me. Texas was about cowboy hats and mohawks, barbeque joints and vegan paradises, Sunday church bells and Sunday Chicken Shit Bingo.
That, and of course football.
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