Book/Movie Review: Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

If you and I both sit down and look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night, we are likely to come away with two very different opinions on the painting. People interpret things differently, they see the world in varying lights. A vast array of viewpoints is what makes judging material so interesting. In many instances, there can be no wrong answer due to the large quantity of mindsets that exist. In this sense, comparing the novel “Friday Night Lights” written by H.G. Bissinger to its film adaptation of the same name is incredibly difficult. Both are spectacular and widely praised by critics. However, underneath the surface of the main plot exists differences between the two. They are separate takes on the same story.

Both stories center on the West Texas town of Odessa and the local high school football team, the Permian Panthers. The focus lies with the town’s complete involvement with the team and the unique athletes who sacrifice for the team. In the most basic sense, the football program represents the identity of the town and its residents. The program is a necessary outlet, a distraction from the underlying economic and racial issues that plague Odessa.

Permian Panthers

The Movie

The movie is an excellent addition to the cinematic sports genre. The dialogue and acting is convincing and the story is relatable and real. You leave the theatre focusing more on the human elements of the story rather than the football.

Billy Bob Thorton admirably headlines a mostly unknown cast, carefully teetering between gruff authoritarian and gentle caretaker. Several of the younger actors hold their own as well. Derek Luke oozes charisma and confidence while also doing a fantastic job of revealing the softer side of injured star running back Boobie Miles. Lucas Black impressively underplays the reserved and focused starting quarterback Mike Winchell.

The film’s cinematography and editing is also an attention grabber. The movie carefully sets the tone with tinted shots of the barren land in and surrounding the mostly impoverished town. We get a sense of the rustic and simple life that exists outside of the football stadium.

One element of the movie that did not ring true, however, are the few fictional liberties taken by director Peter Berg. For example, the undercurrent of racism that divided the town is severely downplayed in the film. The racial tensions that threatened both the team and the town are more or less phased out for more focused story telling. Also, in order to cut down on running time, the film’s focus on individual players is fairly limited to Winchell, Miles and Don Billingsley.

FNL Movie Pic

The Book

The book delves into more detail with its characters who are so rich and multi layered, you would swear it was all fiction. Bissinger takes the time to introduce the reader to several members of the football team and provide us with an in-depth glimpse into their lives. After he establishes many of these characters, Bissinger is then able to give the reader some insight into their minds. By cataloguing their home lives and upbringing, talking and interviewing the players extensively, and examining their choices and motivations, the reader gets an incredibly real sense for who these people truly were at that time. More so than the film version. It’s like you’re reading an entertaining and vivid documentary.

While the movie does a great job, the book presents a better sense of Winchell’s innate separateness, Miles’ heartbreaking downfall and several other personal stories witnessed during the course of the season.

Perhaps the biggest difference is Bissinger’s intense examination of the racial and economic issues engulfing Odessa. Bissinger even provides a detailed history of the civil rights movements that took place in the town long before this team came into existence. This focus provides a more worldly view of what is admittedly a provincial and prejudiced town. It allows the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the identity of Odessa and its unique culture. Every town has its skeletons, but the race relations and economic divide that existed in Odessa is a fascinating inspection of what is considered a true American town.

Overall, Bissinger’s novel is the superior story of the two. Both are fantastically entertaining and come highly recommended by both book and film critics. However, the expanded scope of the book makes for a more moving and memorable experience.

FNL Book

Redefining success in the NFL

Calvin Johnson

In life, there are certain benchmarks that indicate accomplishment. These indicators are tangible symbols of success.

Numbers often times provide the road map of a success for a given field.

But, what happens when those numbers are no longer as indicative as they once were? When benchmarks become outdated, when they no longer reliably reflect success, progress and perception?

AJ Green

In sports, attaining a 1000-yard receiving season in the NFL is considered upper-echelon.

Dig deeper and recent trends suggest that these numbers are not as trustworthy as once believed.

The gold standard of 1000-yard seasons for pass catchers no long indicates elite talent. Twenty pass catchers reached this mark last season. 19 players reached it the year before. 

The NFL is rapidly shifting towards aerial based offenses. As a result, the league has become saturated with pass catchers. The plethora of options closes the gap between talent classes.

Wes Welker

No box score can truly convince me that players such as Michael Crabtree and Jordy Nelson are among the elite WRs of the NFL. Guys like them may have some talent, but they are far from being considered the best at their positions. It’s like the mirage of stardom American Idol casts over its contestants. Sure, they’ve all got amazing skill. But, the majority of winners eventually fade away after their lone victorious season.

Offenses can no longer be judged by whether or not they contain a true No. 1 WR who consistently tops 1000 yards. The game has changed and it’s time the way we view it changes as well.

NFL: Contract killers

Joe FlaccoWord broke recently that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will be the NFL’s highest paid player. The two parties have agreed to a six-year deal worth $120.6 million.

Excuse me? Come again?

Is this the same Joe Flacco whose completion percentage has been under 60% the last two seasons? The same Joe Flacco whose career post-season percentage is 55.5%?

Joe Flacco 2Now I understand that Flacco is coming off a very impressive post-season run. He is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and has won nine playoff games.

But is he worthy of the richest contract in NFL history?

Well, is Charlie Sheen a role model for kids?

No chance.

This is still the same guy who gets rattled when pressure is in his face. This is still the same guy who was at the helm of a listless Ravens team at the end of the season. Do four great playoff games completely erase the frequent periods of offensive stagnancy that has plagued Baltimore the last couple years?

Joe Flacco 3

Joe Flacco is a solid quarterback who has won some big games. But he is not more valuable in terms of dollars and on field performance than Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. You could make the argument that a hand full of other QBs are more valuable as well.

As my brother smartly pointed out, most of the major contracts are dictated by the market and not actual value. Supply and demand are going to jack up prices for prime time free agents. But I still don’t see the logic here. Baltimore could have easily made Flacco a top five paid QB instead of sacrificing the ability to add talent to a roster that has some holes.

Everyone knew Baltimore had to pay the man. But they didn’t need to be an accomplice to robbery.

Why do I love sports?

Championship trophiesWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because it is a world us regular people will never fully understand. It is a world where individuals show us things we never thought possible. It is a world where anything and everything can happen and humans are no longer bound by common physical limitations.

The Shot

Why do I love sports?

I love sports because it allows us to join an entity bigger than ourselves. Being a fan isn’t just about rooting for a team. It’s about entering an entire culture of people who share the same passion as you. It’s about walking down the street in a random city far away from home and instantly connecting with someone because they’re wearing the same jersey as you.

robinsonWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because in those rare moments it can transcend beyond just a simple game. It can represent an entire society with its flaws and successes, its limits and potential. Its impact can surpass mere winning and losing as special moments evolve into lasting iconic images engrained in our culture and passed down among generations.

AliWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because athletes chase their dreams. They aren’t afraid of failure and they are willing to work for what they want most. No matter how outlandish or impossible, they refuse to give up. I like to think the same applies to all of our dreams and watching sports reminds us of that.

MiracleWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because, at the end of the day, I just want a few hours to get away from it all. I want a few hours to become lost in something that I enjoy. I want to feel connected while also entertained.

Why do I love sports?

I love sports because of family moments like this.


So tell me, why do you love sports?

The Super Bowl black out

Super DomeAccording to this article, Superdome officials have been worried for months at the potential for a power outage during America’s most popular sporting event.

The level of incompetence involved in this is breath taking. How can the Super Bowl venue be so ill equipped? If they believed there was a better then average chance of a black out occurring, why didn’t they prepare against it? The article sites considerable concerns over the condition of the stadium’s electrical feeders. These concerns had been voiced months beforehand and yet the issue was not dealt with. How can the Super Bowl be handled with such apathy?

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

Now, the NFL has said that the black out will not affect New Orleans’ chances of hosting another Super Bowl in the future. But, I’m sure league officials were distraught  behind closed doors. Such a massive screw up is inexcusable for the most viewed event of the year.

Step ya game up.

Ray Lewis and PEDs

The above video is an impressive highlight compilation from Ray Lewis‘ career. If the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl victory didn’t further cement Lewis’ legacy as one of the greatest linebackers of all time for you, then you clearly have not been paying attention to the NFL. What makes the middle linebacker’s accomplishment this season even more amazing is his incredible recovery from a torn triceps. Lewis returned a mere 10 weeks after the injury when the average recovery time is known to be around six months.

But, as reported during media week, Lewis may have utilized a banned substance to aid in his recovery. Yet, no one seems to care that much. Yes, the media covered it and asked Lewis all of the important questions. But, it appears as if the general public is just as happy to sweep this under the rug and let Lewis ride off into the sunset.

Ray Ray

As columnist Bill Simmons argues in his article “Daring to ask the PED question”, the public should hold NFL players to the same standard as other sports. We should demand an even playing field and shun those that fail to adhere to the rules. And yet for some reason, we don’t. Commissioner Roger Goodell doles out a four game suspension for first time violators and the media move on.

Why is that?

Are we so entertained by the sheer brutality of football that we subconsciously want these behemoth athletes to continue growing stronger and hitting harder?


The league, the media, and the fans should value fair competition over bone crushing hits and inhuman athleticism. Performance enhancing drugs are a part of professional football. It’s about time we address that.

The Right To Privacy: Should We Be Laying Off Manti Te’o?

Louis D. Brandeis, co-author of the 1890 Harvard Law Review article “The Right to Privacy,” believed that the press at the time was, “overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and decency.” Brandeis criticized media outlets at the time for their invasiveness while urging lawmakers to include legislation that protected one’s right to privacy. Over one hundred years later, our society is still struggling to find a balance between the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy.

Recently, the bizarre story of Manti Te’o and the elaborate online hoax he was involved in has put this uneasy balance into focus. Te’o, a standout linebacker at Notre Dame, had garnered significant attention for the heartbreaking story of his girlfriend’s tragic death during the season.

The above photo was one of several images used in Lennay Kekua’s fake online profiles.

However, as we now have come to know, this girlfriend never existed. In fact, it was a cruel and intricate hoax orchestrated by a catfisher.

What is most troubling about this entire story isn’t whether or not Te’o knew what was going on, but America’s obsession with the story itself. Since the story broke, the Te’o hoax has received top billing from nearly every major media outlet. Suddenly, this 22-year-old’s entire life has come under constant and extreme scrutiny.

Was Manti Te’o directly involved in the hoax? We don’t know. He and everyone in his campy adamantly deny any involvement in the scam. From a distant perspective, it appears as if he’s an innocent and naive young man who was too embarrassed to come forward when the truth initially came out.

Te'o 2

Yet, our culture is devouring this story with what appears to be an insatiable appetite. The public pounces feverishly on every new update and the media compete relentlessly for exclusive information. Isn’t this overkill for a story that basically boils down to a too trusting young adult allegedly getting duped? If you felt inspired by Te’o’s story and rooted for him because of it, yes, you have the right to be upset by this. But, why has an essentially victimless crime become the single most attention getting story in the country?

Our society’s incessant need to know drives a non-stop news cycle that has become increasingly invasive within our lives. In an era of immediate access to information, Te’o has become the latest victim to fall into the public eye. As a result, the athlete and those around him have been forced to defend him publicly on numerous occasions. For some reason, the public continuously demands answers from him that he simply may not have.

Te’o deserves a measure of privacy to gather himself in what is obviously a tumultuous time for him and his family.

America needs to move on to a real news story and give this kid a break.