Lessons in Manliness from Friday Night Lights

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 7, 2011 · 57 comments

in A Man's Life, Lessons In Manliness

There aren’t too many television shows out there that portray men in a positive light these days. Men on sitcoms are usually dimwitted doofuses or cartoonishly macho. It’s not much better on TV dramas.  While I can point to books or movies that inspire me to be a better man, it’s hard for me to do that with today’s crop of small screen offerings.

NBC’s Friday Night Lights is a refreshing exception. Friday Night Lights is a show about football that’s really not about football. Based on the book and movie of the same name, FNL takes place in the fictional town of Dillon, TX and follows the lives of head football coach Eric Taylor and his family, the players he coaches, as well as a whole host of other characters.

Kate and I were a little late getting started with FNL. The series began in 2006, but we didn’t start watching until 2010. We heard about FNL‘s masterful writing and quality acting, but we never got around to watching the show.  When Gus was born, we rented the previous seasons and started watching the show from the beginning. We were hooked. The acting and writing was so realistic it was easy to forget that these weren’t real people. A few months later we sadly said goodbye to our friends in Dillon as we watched the final episode in the series.

There’s so much I could say about what easily became my favorite television show of all time. But what struck me most about the show was the way the men in Dillon, TX were portrayed. They weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They were human, and they screwed up, sometimes royally. But despite their shortcomings, most of them strived to be better men and to do the right thing.

I never thought I’d say this about about a TV show, but Friday Night Lights helped me become a better man.

There are so many things I learned about being a better man from the show, but here are a few of the big ones. If you haven’t seen the show yet, do yourself a favor. Stop reading this post and go rent it on Netflix. I’ve got some spoilers in here, and I don’t want to ruin the show for you. If you’ve seen the show, then please join me as we explore lessons in manliness from Friday Night Lights. 

Relish the Underdog Role

“Nothing’s gonna crush Matt Saracen. He’s like a little stinkbug, you can’t crush him. He’s tough, he’ll be fine.” – Coach Taylor about quarterback Matt Saracen

I love a good underdog story and FNL is filled with them. In the first season, we see sophomore Matt Saracen thrust into the starting quarterback position after star QB Jason Street suffers a paralyzing injury. The whole town writes off Saracen and the team’s aspirations for a state title. But Matt proves the naysayers wrong by quietly leading his team to a state championship.

A few seasons later, Coach Taylor is ousted from the head coach position at Dillon High and is given a head coaching job at East Dillon, a school in the poorer part of town that’s re-opening after years of being closed.  The rundown facilities, lack of funding, and dearth of experienced players squelch any chance at a state title, let alone a winning season. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, Coach Taylor relishes his underdog role and sees it as a challenge to become an even better coach. Instead of relying on fancy equipment and facilities, Coach Taylor had to spend more time working on the basics and developing passion and teamwork in his players. The result? After a year of rebuilding, an unexpected state championship.

Whether it’s football or business, always relish the underdog role. It keeps you hungry and humble. It frees you from the scrutiny and expectations of others, and allows you to do things your way, to get creative and bootstrap. Most importantly, it forces you to focus on fundamentals. Instead of seeing the underdog role as a disadvantage, use it as an opportunity to become a better man.

A Man Needs to Come to Peace with His Father

“My mom asked me to forgive him, to be better. And you’re asking me to be better. I don’t know how to be better because he never taught me to be better!” – Vince Howard about his father

No man looms larger in a man’s life than his father. For better or worse, his influence is inescapable. He is our model for manhood. Thus few things elicit stronger feelings in a man than his relationship with his dad. I think every boy wants a perfect father. He wants the man who acts as protector when things go bump in the night, who teaches him how to break in a baseball glove and how to shave, who gives him advice on women, and who becomes a friend and confidant later in life. No dad lives up to their kids’ expectations 100% of the time, but when a boy’s father fails to even be there at all for his son, it can create emotional wounds that he carries into adulthood. For many men, coming to peace with their relationship with their father is the biggest step they have to take on the path to manhood.

FNL did a bang up job exploring the sometimes emotionally fraught relationship between father and son. Most of the players had issues with their dads.  In season one, running back Smash Williams has to come to peace with his dead father. Tim Riggins’ dad just up and left him and his brother. He tries to reconcile with his dad–still holding out the hope that he might be the father he’s always wanted–but sadly learns that his dad’s a deadbeat, and so he moves on. In the final season, Vince Howard grapples with his ex-con drug-dealing dad getting out of jail and moving back home.

But perhaps the most poignant example of a young man coming to peace with the relationship with his father is Matt Saracen. Matt’s mom took off when he was young, and his dad is a career soldier who has been gone on deployments most of Matt’s life, leaving him alone to take care of his senile grandmother and forcing Matt to grow up faster than most boys his age have to. When Matt’s dad returns home, the two don’t get along, as Matt is filled with angry feelings of abandonment.

After Matt’s father returns to Iraq and is killed in combat, Matt is forced to come to terms with the man he claims to hate. We get to see him go through all the stages of grief. In the end, he doesn’t forgive his father. Instead, he figuratively and literally buries the relationship with his dad and moves on with his life.

Coming to peace with your relationship with your father can mean different things to different men. If you had a good relationship with your dad, it may mean learning to see your father as just a man instead of a larger than life character. If you had a crappy relationship with your dad, coming to peace with your father/son relationship doesn’t mean you have to feel good about your dad or even reconcile with him. It just means accepting the bad relationship, learning from it, and moving on with your life without it burdening you.

Nurture Manliness

“You are a teacher first, and you are a molder of men.” – Tami Taylor to her husband, Coach Eric Taylor

Coach Taylor loved to win football games. But watching the young players he coached mature and develop into good, strong men gave him even more satisfaction. Coach Taylor knew that many of his young players looked to him not only as a coach, but also as a mentor and father figure. Eric Taylor didn’t ask for that role, but he took it on because he understood that the greatest thing a man can do is leave behind a legacy of manliness by nurturing and fathering young men into manhood.

There are so many examples in the show of players showing up at Coach Taylor’s door in the middle of the night looking for help and advice. Without fail, Coach Taylor took them in. He didn’t handle his players with kid gloves by coddling them. He demanded excellence and would sternly rebuke his players if they didn’t fully perform to their potential both on and off the field.

We need mentors to develop fully as men. But at a certain point, it becomes our responsibility to become mentors ourselves and pass on the art of manliness. The great thing about mentoring is that the mentor often gets more out of the relationship than the mentee. In the last episode of the show,  Coach Taylor tells Vince Howard, a one time juvie turned star quarterback, “You may never know how proud I am of you.” To which Vince answers, “You changed my life Coach.” That’s legacy.

A Man Seeks Redemption

“Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He is going to fight and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. This game is not over, this battle is not over.” – Coach Eric Taylor

The theme of redemption was woven throughout each season. Several of the characters fell on hard times because of their own choices and because of just plain bad luck. My favorite example of a man redeeming himself is slick-talking car salesman and booster president, Buddy Garrity. When the show first started, I couldn’t stand Buddy Garrity. He was just a sleaze ball. He was a drunk, he cheated on his wife, and spent his daughter’s college education fund in a bad business deal. Buddy also had a tendency to sow the seeds of dissension on the team and cause Coach Taylor unneeded headaches. You could tell he did it purely for the power trip. People like that really bother me.

I’ll admit I was happy to see Buddy get his comeuppance when he lost his business, his family, and his cherished role as president of the Dillon Panthers booster club. It’s always nice to see cosmic justice in action.

But then something happened. Buddy Garrity quickly went from being my least favorite character on FNL to one my favorites. Why the change? Because Buddy sought for redemption.

Buddy used his personal crucible as an opportunity to become a better man. Ousted from his beloved Panthers, Buddy swallows his pride and becomes a big booster for a rival of his high school alma mater, the East Dillon Lions. He opens up another business in the poorer East Dillon side of town and quickly becomes a part of the community. He takes in a former juvenile delinquent named Santiago and becomes sort of a father figure to him. And in the last season we get to see Buddy repair his relationship with his estranged son, Buddy, Jr. Finally, at Tim Riggins’ parole hearing, he stands up for a young man he had respected as a football player but detested as his daughter’s boyfriend and offers him a job at his restaurant, and his own shot at getting back on his feet.

There are such things as second acts in life. Buddy Garrity is a perfect example of that. If you’ve screwed up in life, humble yourself, and fight like the dickens to make things right.

Texas Forever

A recurring theme on FNL is the desire of the young folk to get out of Dillon, TX. They feel trapped by the town. They hate that everyone knows everything about them. And yet…they always come back. It’s a part of them. They can never fully leave it. I think we’ve all experienced that feeling. We want to explore the world and find new horizons, yet we long for the comfort of home and community. We want the freedom and the lack of responsibility that comes with anonymity, but we also long for a sense of place and belonging.

Tim Riggins has a catchphrase he drops throughout the series: “Texas Forever.”

Texas Forever began as a pact that between Tim and his friend Jason Street that they’d never leave Texas. But I think there’s more to the saying than that. It means never forgetting where you came from. It means holding in your heart the community that molded you into the man you are.

No matter where the branches of life take you, keep your roots planted in firm soil. It keeps you grounded as a man.

A Man’s Closest Ally Is His Wife

“Marriage requires maturity. Marriage requires two people that will listen, really listen to each other. Marriage most of all requires compromise.” – Coach Eric Taylor

While on the surface Friday Night Lights was a show about football, the heart of the show was truly the relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor. It’s by far the most realistic depiction of a good marriage I’ve ever seen on TV. Most TV shows depict marriages in which the husband is suffocated and henpecked by the wife, or ones in which each of the partners is forever on the verge of an affair or the couple is sliding towards divorce. Instead, the Taylors looked like most married couples I know–solid, happy, and committed. They were confronted not with the over-the-top drama typically depicted on the small screen, but with the everyday struggles that strain most marriages, like balancing work and family, handling an unruly teenager, or just figuring out who’s cooking dinner.

Perhaps the biggest conflict between Eric and Tami was balancing their respective career aspirations. Eric wanted to coach football. That was his calling in life. And for most of their marriage, Tami supported her husband’s dream by moving from job to job. Without her support, Coach Taylor could not have been as successful as he was. But when Tami’s career in education starts to take off, her personal goals quickly become incompatible with her husband’s. Cue the marital tension, and the eventual self-sacrificing compromise.

Despite their relationship conflicts, Tami and Eric were committed to their marriage. They were always able to resolve their problems with love and respect.

Eric understood that a man’s closest ally and adviser is his wife. When he had a problem with the team, he’d often ask Tami for her input while they were laying in bed right before they fell asleep. (Kate and I have those same kinds of bedtime conversations. I’m sure most married couples do too.) He understood the power of a marriage mastermind. He saw his wife not as his inferior or superior, but as an equal companion that was there to help him become the best man he could be.

A Man Needs a Team

“A few will never give up on you. When you go back out on the field, those are the people I want in your minds. Those are the people I want in your hearts.” – Coach Eric Taylor

Despite the popular depictions of men as lone wolf types, the reality is that men thrive most when they’re part of a team that’s united by a common goal and purpose. We need other men who will be there to push us to reach our potential and who’ll offer a hand when we fail. Knowing you belong to a group of men who have your back instills confidence and a sense of belonging and brotherhood that we all crave.

In FNL, we see the power of team take center stage. The young players took on challenges together on and off the field. They’d often meet on the empty football field with a few beers in hand to throw the ball around and just talk life. Sometimes they fought and argued, but if one of them needed something, the whole team was there to support him.

Two specific instances from FNL come to mind that showcase the power of male friends in a man’s life. The first is Vince Howard. When we first meet Vince, he’s running from the cops. But Coach Taylor brings him onto the football team and his life transforms. We see him mature into an honorable young man in just two short seasons. Sure, Coach Taylor’s mentoring had a big role in Vince’s transformation, but I think being surrounded by a group of good guys had an even bigger impact on Vince.

The second example is Buddy Garrity, Jr. His mom ships him back to Texas from California because he’s been acting out. After finding Buddy, Jr. in the aftermath of a massive bender, Buddy convinces his son to go out for the football team, knowing that it will help turn his life around. And it does. The East Dillon Lions bring Buddy, Jr. into the fold and give him the sense of belonging he’s needed.

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose

I couldn’t possibly end a post about Friday Night Lights without extrapolating the lessons from Coach Eric Taylor’s iconic motto for his teams.

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

So simple and yet so profound. What does it mean? I think it means no matter what the score is on the scoreboard at the end of the game, as long as you can say with a clear conscience (clear eyes) that you played with everything you had (full heart), you can never lose.

And so it is in life. Our goal as men should be to be able to look ourselves in the mirror each night and tell ourselves we gave it our all. Even if things don’t turn out the way we wanted, there’s a peace of mind that comes from knowing you did all you could to succeed and you did it with integrity.

Are you a Friday Night Lights Fan? What lessons in manliness did you learn from the show?

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DeliBoy November 7, 2011 at 12:27 am

My wife and I caught maybe the last two seasons before the show ended. Neither one of us were football fans, so I was always a little leery of watching it. Surprisingly, there is very little of the actual games shown. We did quickly grow to appreciate the quality story telling and role models shown here. The stories encompass much more then a football team. Thanks for the article; we’ll probably rent the back seasons because of it.

2 Chris November 7, 2011 at 1:11 am

@Brett — Not very strangely, I was on the verge of recommending this show. Something in the last decade changed: many of the sharpest writers navigated from the world of movies to the world of TV: The Sopranos, West Wing, and The Wire, for example. All of them top-notch. But no show combined such sharp reading with heart like FNL. When you can be inspired by dilemma and nuance, you know you’ve hit upon something special. Thanks for the post.

3 ShamRockNRoll November 7, 2011 at 4:07 am

I’ve been making basically this same argument (about the quality and instructive nature of this show) for a couple years now to my group of friends. This post is spot on in my opinion.

4 Kavi November 7, 2011 at 7:40 am

Brett, you made my day with this article.
I absolutely love this show and I believe I’ve learnt valuable lessons from the different characters from the integrity of Coach Taylor, the fortitude of Riggins, the sense of duty of Jason to the stoicism of Saracens.
Maybe you could expand the article to talk about the qualities exhibited by Jason Streets, Lyla Garrity and Luke Cafferty during their hard times.
Now I can only wish that you write an article on the characters of The Wire…

5 Kavi November 7, 2011 at 7:42 am

sorry for the double post, I can’t seem to edit my previous comment
Thanks to Kate too for the article.

6 Andres November 7, 2011 at 8:15 am

I’ve been following AoM for quite a while, and never dropped a comment. But after reading this article I thought I had to.
As a former college rugby player, I know what means to belong to a team. It is said that rugby is a sport of brutes, played by gentlemen, and i cannot agree more. I have never watched FNL before, but i might have to start doing it. Nowadays, as the article mentions, men are portrayed as goofy or dumb characters in movies and TV series, I guess due to political correctness (a modern disease, unforunately). If FNL is as explained in this article, it should be very welcomed. We need examples that show that being a man is not about dressing fancy and showing off, but of showing integrity, strength, sacrifice and commitment.
Thank you Kate and Brett for these articles you post. In the midst of this superficial and hypocritical society we live in, we need good role models to follow. I try to be the best I can in this matters, against all odds.
A reader from Madrid, Spain.

7 Daren Redekopp November 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

And here I though Mad Men was the greatest TV show of all time. After seeing your post, however, I wonder if it isn’t the negative counterpart to FNL, in that it portrays the road to unmanliness, so paved with mixed intentions.

8 Joseph Rogers November 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

Brett, I want to say that this is the best article I’ve seen from you in a long time. This is the kind of stuff you started out writing, and this is what attracted me to the site to begin with. This is not telling someone else that “You have to do THIS to be a man”, this is saying “As men, we all experience things like this….” and it was REALLY well written.

Thanks.

9 Andy Mullins November 7, 2011 at 9:54 am

Amazing show, one of my all time favorites. I love the football, the comradery, the hard work, the value of strong character and even the teen drama. The show deals with so many of the facets of being a man, from adolescence through career & married life.

I was sad to see it end. But very happy to see it end with such class.

10 Chad Smith November 7, 2011 at 9:57 am

Brett,
Once again you have started my week off with a smile. This show (and movie) has been a favourite of mine for a long time now. I myself am a football head coach and what I have learned from Eric Taylor cannot be explained in words. This definitely does not just apply to me as a coach. His relationship with Tammy is what my wife and I strive for. My wife very often will compare our relationship to theirs.
I think the part of the show that touched me the most was when Coach Taylor took Riggins in and probably taught him more in that little while then he did all the years coaching him. The trouble that that young man has dealt with and how he has reacted, not always properly, is a true testament to what belonging to a team can do for someone.
I could go on all day, but thank you very much Brett and Kate, you have managed to start my week off great once again!

P.S, I cannot wait for my copy of Manvotationals to arrive!

Coach Chad

11 Ian November 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

My wife and I love this show, but sometimes the teenage characters act and appear far too mature – making mistakes and solving them in ways more akin to somebody in their late 20s and early 30s, at the least. But you wouldn’t want them to act like teenagers anyway – too annoying. Great show, and a great manliness icon in coach Taylor.

12 Playstead November 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

I also love how they portray him as a father. He doesn’t have all the answers, but he protects his family first. To get to any of them, you need to get through Eric Taylor first. He’s always there, doesn’t waver on his responsibilities and supports the others. Great show.

13 robert November 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

I couldn’t agree more. I just finished the season on netflix a week ago after exclusively watching FNL anytime I had time to watch tv. It is a very powerful show that shows how a man SHOULD be. Honorable with a sense of duty to his family, his country and his community. My favorite parts are when Riggins is accused of somthing and he doesnt argue or waste his breath trying to defend being wrongly accused. He knows he was in the right and he is quick to ask for forgiveness if he is in the wrong.

14 Joey November 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

My wife and I just started watching this series. We are only on episode 8-9 but we can both see the difference in this series versus other shows in how it portrays the Husband and Man in the show. Its nice that someone in Hollywood actually still knows what a man is supposed to be. Lookin forward to the other 4(?) seasons…

15 Erica November 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

LOVE. I always thought this show had some great lessons in manliness. Thanks for breaking them down.

16 James H November 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

Ditto to what Joseph Rodgers said. Best article in a while. Not to take anything away from the rest of the site (I’ve been a loyal reader for a couple of years now), but I REALLY enjoyed reading this one. Great way to start the week.

17 Joe November 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I also watched every single episode and agree with you 100 percent. It was a great show and the cast was great and you really enjoyed each character. I especially like Tami Taylor she was hella nice and funny at times and I wouldnt mind a wife like her at all.

18 Rob November 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Jesus, Brett and Kate, you guys really do just pin the tail. Reading any of these manovationals or lessons makes me think about what I am doing, why, and clears my head. For God’s sake, keep doing this.

19 greyD November 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Thanks for this. I really Liked this show, and was happy that it ended strong.

20 Kevin November 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Great article. My wife and I (neither of whom are football fans) caught FNL at about the same stage you did and finished the series about a month ago. We loved it and appreciated the characters and storylines immensely. I can’t agree enough with you on all your points. Also, I just found your blog and added it to my feed. I like what I see so far!

21 Jeff November 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I couldn’t agree more with this article. This is a great show and has several great examples of what being a man – or for that matter a person is all about.

I often found myself feeling a little silly while watching that I could get so wrapped up in the characters and be so inspired by Coach Taylor – looks like I’m in good company and shouldn’t feel silly at all.

Sure some of the aspects of this show are a bit stretched when it comes to the actual teenagers and a few of the sub plots – but stacked up against other shows this one stands out.

I too get very tired of the Al Bundy, Ray Romano, King of Queens, etc. depiction of men being goofy, clueless, baffoons. It’s demeaning and quite tired – much like women do not want to be depicted in 50′s era Dutiful housewofe roles men do not want to be seens as idiots.

Thanks for a great post and I’m glad there are others out there who see this show as more than entertainment.

THanks,

Jeff

22 Carrie Campbell November 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Brett and Kate, SO excited to see this post. I started sending it to people before I even finished reading it. I just finished FNL and loved every episode of it. Plus I love your website, so it was just two awesome worlds colliding. I love how there is so much truth, loyalty, and character growth in the series. Thank you!

23 Dylan November 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Personal favorite:

“That’s what character is. It’s in the trying.”

24 Rob November 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

If I may comment slightly on the opening of the article by mentioning another current TV show that I believe portrays men in a good way – the Walking Dead. Deals with fatherhood, leadership, perseverance and belief. Something that really struck me this week was the character Daryl, who is kinda rough-around-the-edges, bit of a redneck, but a very decent bloke, shows great strength of character and a very touching sympathy. I’m not rough around the edges at all, come from a college-type family, and because I’m not anywhere as decent enough as I’d like to be, probably think that makes me better (of course it doesn’t), but Daryl has shown me more what I’d like to be like!

25 Scott Lee November 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Great, great article Brett and Kate!
I too was (am) changed by FNL. But for me it was how well done the soundtrack played. Everything was connected, all my senses were consumed in each episode.

And yes, thank you so much for pointing out the marriage between Coach Taylor and Tammy. I wish more TV shows portrayed these types of bonds between husband and wife.

26 Patrick K November 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

What a coincidence I just started watching the series today on Netflix. I’ll have to read the post when I’m done though, scared of spoilers haha

27 Greg November 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Wow, thanks for the show tip! Sorry I am late to watching this show, but looking forward to it. Sad that shows with character seem to be few and far between.

I guess now there is a reason to take Netflix’s offer to come back again!

Thanks Brett and Kate!

28 Dane Connelly November 7, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I have been a huge fan of FNL. I am also a Catholic seminarian. Watching the show has made me a better man and because of that, a better seminarian and future priest. One of the many things I learned from the show was the importance of needing to suck things up for the good of another. The classic example in the show is when Tim Riggens does not tell coach Taylor about how he saved his daughter Julie from sleeping with some slime ball. In stead he lets the coach believe that he was trying to fool around with his daughter. In the end Julie does the right thing and Tim is thanked by the coach for trying to do what he though best. I love this show.

29 jeremy beasley November 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Easily one of my favorite shows of all times for most of the reasons you’ve already articulated above. My girlfriend introduced me to the show and within a few episodes, I was hooked.

30 flash10 November 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Thanks for a great post and giving us FNL fans an insightful perspective on what I consider one of the best TV series ever. As you point out, it’s rare for men to be portrayed so honestly on television. Every father should be able to see himself in these characters, learning lessons on what to do and what not to do to be a better man. Last year, I was in Austin for a meeting and did some research, rented a car and drove around to find the field where the series was filmed and even drove by the Taylors’ and Saracens’ houses. How ironic that NBC, which is now the fourth network in terms of viewership, couldn’t take a series that stirs such passions and make it a hit. They saw it as a football show and, as your post demonstrates, it really was much, much more.

31 jude14 November 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm

FNL is my 17 year old daughter’s favorite show. I have seen it ocassionally and really enjoyed it. Your article does make me want to watch the entire series, which I will start to do. Excellent article. Reading the part about “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose” is something that I just need to hear right now and focus on to get through a rough patch in life where I have been the underdog and things just haven’t worked out the way I wanted despite my best efforts and integrity. It seems like this show would give me some hope.

32 Rhett Smith November 8, 2011 at 1:03 am

Brett/Kate:

So glad you posted this. A friend of mine saw it and sent me the link. My wife and I started watching FNL in September of this year because we finally had heard enough of everyone saying it was the best show ever.

So we started and were hooked instantly….we cruised through all the episodes in 5 weeks….we were so addicted.

And now…this sounds crazy. We are sort of in a grieving period (I use that word lightly here of course)….but we miss watching the show each night. Somehow those characters became a part of our life.

As a marriage and family therapist I was so taken by the family systems at work in the show, and intrigued to watch issues play out in one generation to the next. Reminds me of the responsibility we have as individuals to take responsibility of our lives and to change them for the better.

I also loved the marriage of Eric and Tami as you stated….so realistic. Conflict like any couple, but a commitment to see it through.

Rhett Smith

33 Cy November 8, 2011 at 1:35 am

Coming from a huge FNL fan, for me this is definitely one of your best posts of the year. Thanks, Brett and Kate!

34 Brian November 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

I love this show. Usually if I find myself watching TV I will stop and read instead but this is one of the few shows that I have watched in its entirety.

Such compelling stuff that can really teach you many things about your life.

Proof that all TV is not worthless and wasteful.

35 cory huff November 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

One of the best posts from AoM in a while, Brett. Made me tear up a little bit. FNL is one of my favorite shows as well. Sad to see it go away.

As an actor and storyteller, I can only hope to remember to portray men in this way, and set an example for the future generations.

36 Allan White November 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

A most excellent post. I have deep family roots in West Texas, and one of my sister-in-laws was a cheerleader in Odessa at the school profiled in the original FNL book. It’s a culture that has simultaneously awed and horrified me at times.

@Cory H. – one reason I think the characters are so good, apart from the writing, is the directing style of letting natural dialogue flow. The actors have an idea of the script, even certain lines, but there’s interruptions, outbursts, etc. that are much more realistic. “Parenthood” is another excellent example of well-acted (and written) TV.

37 Michael Boulding November 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I have to say that while I haven’t watched this show (yet), I have been aware of the complete lack of positive role models in TV, part of the reason I don’t watch most TV shows. However, if you enjoy TV shows with good acting, excellent story telling and truly believable characters, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is absolutely top notch. It has helped me become a better man, and exudes classic manliness, especially hardihood. At one point I want to write an article about it specifically for the Art of Manliness, I mean seriously, this website forms the foundation of the majority of the male characters in that show. It does have a few plot holes, but I have never born witness to a TV show, movie or book that inspires me to be better man more, not even Rocky.

38 Stein November 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm

We had a thread in the forums about the TV role models, and in shorthand I cited just the examples you did about Coach Eric Taylor in a more shorthand way. I found that show so inspiring, I admired him and his wife played by Connie Britton . I admired the way Tim Riggins battled his Demons while struggling to become a good man. Just the most fantastic show.

39 Bryan November 9, 2011 at 1:27 am

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http://inspireb4expiring.blogspot.com/2011/11/7-movies-7-lessons.html

40 Jared November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

God Bless Texas

41 Mattoomba November 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

C’mon, Brett, admit it: being an Oklahoman, the “Texas Forever” part of your article was a little hard to write, wasn’t it? I don’t think I could laud the merits of “OK forever”…but then I’m not an open-minded journalist.
Great article. I saw the first two episodes when the show premiered, but I was hooked on “Lost” and didn’t get into FNL. I enjoyed the movie though. Now I’ll have to give FNL-TV another chance. (And didn’t Mack Brown have a few cameos in the show?)

42 Justin L November 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Sounds like an excellent show and it’s coming on tonight, so I plan on watching. There are too few good shows on TV, and too few good movies.

By the way, I love the site, keep up the good work!

-Justin

43 Nick Savides November 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm

You’re right about the general lack of positive masculine role models on television and in pop culture generally. I’m not saying that as a critic but as someone who is trying to make a living in the entertainment industry. I’d like to make a positive impact in that field, but it is a challenge.

I’ve heard others speak highly of Friday Night Lights, but no one else I’ve read has suggested that it made better men out of its viewers. Based on your recommendation, I’ve bumped the show to the top of my Netflix queue.

The TV show Lost is the only one that comes to mind which made me a better man. That and maybe Glenn Beck’s GBTV shows. (It took me a while to realize that Glenn is more of a character-minded guy who just happens to be packaged as a political commentator.) Both Lost and GBTV are worth checking out if you’re looking for television that dares you to be more than what you are.

44 Joe November 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Great post. FNL was such a good show, it is too bad it caught on so late and after it was cancelled.

45 Max November 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Paragraph 3: replace “is” with “it:” “… The acting and writing was so realistic is was easy to forget that these weren’t real people …”

46 Tate November 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Congratulations to you, Brett and Kate, for finding the redeeming value in this lousy show. It is amazing that you can find such manly characteristics in such a soap opera. Admittedly, I couldn’t watch any more of it after the 2nd season. Early on, the only two characters who I felt any admiration for were Saracen and Street, but eventually even that faded. Everyone else I can barely stand to even think of. Lyla was a hypocrite (as she doesn’t forgive Street for a lesser act of infidelity, and Jesus was only a 2nd season fad until she jumps back into bed with Riggins), Riggins won’t visit his best friend in the hospital and meanwhile sexes his lady, Smash epitomizes the cocky athlete, Tyra was incredibly selfish, Coach Taylor is lazy (I know at my high school no coaching position was a full time job, including the fact that he had a student manager write her own recommendation for him to sign), and Mrs. Taylor was a statist (stealing booster funds to fund her school) and weak female lead (her inability to be a single parent during the weekdays in the second season demonstrated this). And when Julie turned her back on Saracen it felt like the show’s writers destroyed the only somewhat healthy relationship in the show, simply for the sake of change.

I disagree with the contention that this show was realistic at all. In my high school days (2004-2007) the athletes were not put on so high a pedestal and worshiped, nor were they and the ladies so promiscuous. But I didn’t go to high school in Texas.

Next time talk about a better show, such as The Unit.

47 BenG November 20, 2011 at 6:07 pm

@Tate: I had similar feelings about those same moments in the show–also the whole strip club element which was a bit gratuitous for my taste. But, at the end of the day, there is just too much amazingly rendered life and redemption and sweetness to these characters to let it bring the show down for me. I think the great thing they did was to continue to complicate the characters and not let them be stuck in flat depictions. Sure they pulled some tricks to shake up the show at the beginning of each season, but all in all some of the best tv I’ve ever seen.

48 Ruaan November 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

It was very good reading and it will build up a man

49 Fred November 21, 2011 at 9:55 am

the lessons was encouraging reading about about men’s life

50 jordan w November 23, 2011 at 3:20 am

Watch it again when your kids are older and the experience changes- I watched the whole megillah with my son (10) and daughter (13) so everything Julie was putting her parents through, and everything the hormones were putting her through echoed right into our living room.. you gave me the courage to say it, FNL changed our lives.

51 Jordan winer November 23, 2011 at 3:22 am

You nailed it- it changed my life too..

52 Chris November 26, 2011 at 8:20 am

Simply put… a great article about an amazing show!

53 Greg November 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Couldn’t agree more with your perspective of the show. Great article.

54 Jane March 31, 2013 at 10:15 pm

This is just beautiful. Thank you!

55 Daniel Poole November 6, 2013 at 9:52 am

I am so happy to see this article on here. As one of the former Dillion Panthers I have to say even off camera Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) was incredibly inspirational. He always was humble and polite to all of the players and other cast members.

56 Rita November 12, 2013 at 4:21 am

Brett, I read your post tonight with the same wide eyes as when I was watching the show when it first aired. I have always been a huge fan of the show. Even now, I still watch many of the episodes on DVD and Netflix often. There is just something so special about Jason Katims’ gift for storytelling. Even the soundtracks were amazing. I don’t know how I only just now stumbled upon your post, but I’m so glad I did. You are right about every single thing. Every. Single. Thing! Thanks for validating all the fans!! And thanks for taking me back. :)
Texas Forever!

57 Paul April 14, 2014 at 9:33 am

What a great article that captured what a wonderful show FNL was. I googled the catch phrase of the show (for a good friend leaving Texas after graduation from a masters program) and came across this article. It reminded me how much I liked the show and more importantly why! I ended up posting it on her web site! Thanks

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