Friday Night Lights
By John Meng, Publisher/Editor Whether you live in a small town or one of the state’s largest cities, the start of the high school football season is one of the most anticipated days on the Texas calendar.
While Friday Night Lights may have been a popular book and later a movie and television series, it all began with the true story of one season with the Odessa Permian Panthers. This was one real-life story that Hollywood didn’t need to hype or exaggerate. The real story was a legend that shined a spotlight on the true, very Texas tradition of ‘Friday Night Lights.’
The allure of high school football in Texas is overpowering.
I never fully understood the Friday Night Lights phenomenon until I moved to a small town.
I raised my children in Liberty Hill, Texas, a small rural community which back then had not yet been victimized by Austin’s insatiable urban sprawl. We had one Sonic, one donut shop, one barbecue joint, one small family-owned corner grocery store and two gas stations. I did not want to raise my kids in a big city and Liberty Hill ISD offered a close-knit family environment. In other words, the teachers always knew what the kids were up to and they were not going to allow any shenanigans.
When my son played on the football team (Liberty Hill was 3A back then), I had my first full ‘Friday Night Lights’ experience. I love football so I was trying to watch the game, analyze the defense and watch the blocking schemes as the running back hit the hole created by the offensive line.
However, I soon became upset at the people around me who seemed completely disinterested. They were chatting and laughing so much, it was even difficult to hear the stadium announcer. I mean, after all, who comes to a football game without the game being the main attraction?
Apparently, everybody does.
That experience was an eye-opener for me. The people attending were not just there for football game. They were not even there to simply show support for their child on the field.
The game is the centerpiece, of course, but it’s also a social event that binds the community together.
As much as the Friday Night Lights is an event, it’s even more a state of mind. In fact, there is no other single event which brings a community together like high school football.
Regardless of the size of the stadium, the whole town turn outs — the ranchers, farmers, teachers, community leaders and business owners. They may be seated in the stands or leaning up against the fence. They may watch bits of the game, but throughout it all they will be talking with their neighbors about politics and potholes, feed prices and family, weather or any one of a dozen other topics.
But this weekly event is not just about the football players and the coaches. There are hundreds of more people involved. Band. Cheerleaders. Drill teams. Booster clubs. Concessions. Groundskeepers. Families. The list goes on.
The hometown stadiums are places where people from all ages and all walks of life gather and watch the color and pageantry of high school football, meet friends and neighbors, and enjoy a special camaraderie that can only be found under the Friday Night Lights.
Last week, we had the first day of school in Edna, and Ganado and Industrial won’t be far behind. The UIL has given its blessing to high school football this year and two-a-day workouts have started. The first Jackson County game on the schedule is Aug. 28, only three weeks away. Of course, the schedules are about as tangible as a wisp of smoke these days. Nevertheless, it sure feels like the Friday Night Lights are coming soon.
This month, the Jackson County Herald-Tribune has the unique privilege to once again produce the annual Fall sports posters and the football programs for Edna, Ganado and Industrial school districts. In these productions, which are highly anticipated every year, businesses and families throughout Jackson County honor the students who bring us together under the Friday Night Lights, as well as those playing volleyball and cross country and performing in band.
If you have a student that you would like to highlight in this year’s programs, please contact the Herald-Tribune office. So, what is it about Texas high school football that makes it so alluring?
Nothing else on earth has quite the same intensity and passion. Every week, as Friday draws nearer, you can feel it in the air like an electrical current. Whereever you happen to be in Jackson County this fall, follow the Friday Night Lights. It’s all about community.