Years ago a friend with good taste in television and movies suggested I watch the TV show “Friday Night Lights.” It’s just about high school football, I thought, and I never watched it. But when it popped up on my Netflix feed recently, I decided to give it a try.
I’m watching in 20-minute chunks as I walk on the treadmill, and it’s good entertainment. It’s a show about football, yes — but there’s much more to it. I’m nearing the end of the first season (the team is heading to the state championship!) and already they’ve touched upon issues like mental health, steroid use, sexual assault, and racism, alongside the expected teenage themes of dating and studying, partying and social status.
I’m especially enjoying the fact that, in both good times and in bad, these kids keep showing up at the doorstep of their friends’ houses.
Remember when most or all of your friends lived in the same town? When a weekend was for hanging out at a friend’s house (ideally the one with a pool in the back yard or the pool table in the basement) or killing time at the diner or doughnut shop where a friend worked (ideally the one where they could sneak you free food)?
The show first hit the airwaves in 2006. The first iPhone was released in 2007. Instagram didn’t make its debut until 2010.
My point is that these fictional kids of Dillon, Texas, are carrying out their conversations — whether insightful or foolish, about everything from the algebra test and Friday’s big game to sharing secrets or engaging in lover’s spats — in person, mostly.
Hanging out in a friend’s living room. While grabbing burgers and shakes at the local diner. Or, perhaps at home, using a phone that’s attached to the wall.
Nobody has their head buried in a smartphone, texting feverishly or posting pictures.
Coach Taylor has a flip phone, and his daughter has a phone that’s just for emergencies. Otherwise, these kids are interacting the old-fashioned way.
If “Friday Night Lights” were filmed these days, for authenticity’s sake you’d have to show many of these conversations taking place via smartphone. Emojis. LOLs. Ugh.
At Dillon High, there’s also a refreshing lack of Google Meets, Zoom calls, and Chromebooks.
Clearly I’m enjoying the show. It brings me back to those teenage years when hanging out and being around friends seemed like the most important thing in the world. (I’m conveniently blocking out all the awkward moments, of course.) It was a time before iPhones, before Facebook and Twitter and Instagram ruled the internet. When you couldn’t hide behind a text message or meme when you had something to say; you had to say it out loud, either into the phone attached to the wall or in a real-life face-to-face interaction.
I didn’t think I’d get very attached to this show, but I’m rooting for these kids — to win on the football field, to do well in school, to figure out who they are, and to be good to one another.
I’m also pleasantly surprised by how much I’m vicariously enjoying all the in-person togetherness, whether it’s harmonious or not.
Like my friend said to me years ago (in person, over dinner — not by text), give this show a try. It’s about football, sure, but it’s about more than that.