Sometimes in life we learn from unlikely sources, and it’s not every day that a TV show teaches you something. One day I started to watch the TV show Friday Night Lights, a show about the trials and triumphs of a high school football team set in the small town of Dillon Texas. Amidst the typical high school drama and issues that the characters face is a show that isn’t afraid to load on the emotion and be truly heartwarming in its handling of sensitive and relatable subjects. Through Coach Taylor’s gritty advice, Mrs. Taylor’s southern twang, and the Dillon Panthers & co., viewers of Friday Night Lights not only get to watch a quality TV show but gain a few valuable life lessons in the process.
Mrs. Taylor, so often the voice of reason on the show, uttered the line “There’s no weakness in forgiveness” and ever since I watched the episode it’s stuck with me. Jason Street, the Panthers’ paralyzed ex-quarterback came to the Taylor household for advice on what to do about his girlfriend, Lyla, who cheated on him with his best friend. After explaining how he wants to get over her but still loves her, Mrs. Taylor tells him that there’s no weakness in forgiveness, meaning that forgiving someone does not make you weak. This is a very poignant lesson because so often we view ourselves as weak when we choose to forgive someone who has clearly wronged us — however, having the ability to forgive freely truly shows your strength of character.
Being a Good Teammate
In life, it’s important to be able to work in teams. Coach Taylor keeps it real when giving advice to his team — their mantra is “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.” He preaches respect to his team and they learn from it and become better people as a result.
This show is all about change. Changes in plans, changes in strategies, changes in relationships. At first the challenges seem daunting, but the characters overcome them. Jason Street, paralyzed in the first episode and devastated that he will never be able to walk again, joins a wheelchair rugby league and crafts a new life for himself. He even acts as an assistant coach to Coach Taylor. Lyla’s father, Buddy Garritty, has an affair and his marriage crumbles — Lyla adapts to this change and eventually trusts her father again. An unexpected pregnancy greets the Taylors, and they have to make some serious decisions regarding their future and careers, overcoming obstacles.
The Difference Between Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships
Let’s face it — Tami and Eric Taylor are the epitome of a healthy marriage. They’re adorable, they care for each other unconditionally, and they work through their issues together as one unit. Even when they fight, they still look at each other with respect. Though nowhere near a perfect couple, they make it work, an admirable quality. On the flip side of things, one unhealthy relationship is seen in Tyra and Cash. Cash was abusive towards Tyra and eventually the Taylors stepped in to save Tyra from him, dropping what they were doing to pick her up hours away.
The Importance of Mentors
Mentors come in all forms on this show — coaches, parents, friends, teammates, principals. The most obvious instance is Coach Taylor and his players. Throughout the show, he acts as a mentor to his team — he takes Matt Saracen, whose mother is absent and father is overseas, under his wing and helps him through hardships. A particularly poignant scene involving Mrs. Taylor with her daughter Julie takes place when Mrs. Taylor finds out that Julie and her boyfriend are planning on having sex:
“No, it’s not just one body part going into another body part. And you saying it’s just one body part going into another body part makes me real clear that you really are not ready for this. And I need you to be able to hear that. I need you to be able to hear me say that to you. You can be hurt, and you can be degraded. You can become hard and you can become cynical, and I don’t want that to happen to you. Sex is special and it’s meant for people who are in love. And you can wait.”
Only in Friday Night Lights would this speech ever work or be taken seriously. The charm of the show manifests itself in such heartfelt pieces of dialogue as this one.
If nothing else is taken away from this shining gem of a show, it should be this: “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.”