On Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights and the Quest for Authenticity
By Adam Wilson
1. But What Does Matt Saracen Dream About?
I’m a Reagan baby, a product of recession, later reared in the economically secure Clinton nineties, in a McMansioned suburb of the Eastern Seaboard. In nearby Boston, the athletes of interest preside in professional Parks and Gardens. They are televised, billboarded, extra-life-sized for us aesthetes to admire as we turn, finally, from our dissertations, to catch the last inning or quarter, becoming vicarious Americans, populist fist-pumpers in the soft reflection of our plasma flat screens.
My own sports career ended at fifteen, soon after my discoveries of breasts and marijuana–plus, my postpubic body’s physiological rejection of the command, “Run laps.” I attended a large public high school known for its high rate of alumni acceptance into Harvard and for its unattractive cheerleaders. Once at a basketball game, a rival school’s fans chanted, “Who Let the Dogs Out” when our Lady-Lions took the court.
The school was demographically diverse: half Jewish, one-quarter genius-Asian, 5 percent bussed-in black kids, and a small minority of miscellaneous Christians–“We killed Christ” was a popular cafeteria taunt aimed at the one Gentile among my friends. Dillon, Texas, this was not. Our football coach smartly nixed the ambitious passing game in favor of an all-run offense that was “less embarrassing.” We had no sandy-haired, steel-eyed Tim Riggins to root for. No tragic Smash Williams, whose shattered knee meant shattered dreams. Not even a heroic survivor like Jason Street to prod spirit into our allegiance-less hearts. We’d never heard of a rally girl, …