On Friday Night Lights

The Drama of Being Decent

By Paula Rogers

Every kid who has ever wondered why she has to spend her time wearing itchy pants and running around after a ball always hears the same words as her parents shove her up to the plate (or what have you): sports build character. They teach you how to be a decent, selfless person.

Just look at how the language of sports is used in daily life. Being a good sport means putting up with what you know to be bunk for the benefit of others around you. Another way of saying that is to be “game.” Sportsmanlike conduct is honorable and fair. Someone who reports on bad behavior is a tattler, unless that behavior is truly corrupt. Then they’re lauded as a whistle-blower. Okay, I’m getting a flag on the out-of-bounds use of the word “score.” But still, the tally adds up to a linguistic slamdunk: the value of sports is in teaching us how to rise above petty ego and make efforts for the good of a group.

So, it’s not a new idea that sports are about teamwork. But Friday Night Lights is a show about sports that runs with those same noble virtues off the field. Its plots explore just how rewarding it can be to take the high road and make the right choice, not just for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others. And that focus explains the appeal of Friday Night Lights to many of its viewers. The show models a type of  …

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