Friday Night Lights, Season 5

What's It Really Like to Play for Oklahoma Tech?
Talking television.
Jan. 7 2011 4:05 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

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Hanna, I love your observation about how Eric can't wait for Julie to leave the house because he can't get past his disappointment with her. (Though I also thought he was just ready to send his college kid back to college. One offer to make breakfast doesn't make up for all the moping and mooching.)

I totally disagree, however, that FNL can't give college recruiting the full critical treatment because that would crack its patina of forced innocence. Not showing kids texting or watching VH1 is one thing. It's of a piece with small-town Dillon nostalgia. But not explaining why exactly Oklahoma Tech is evil or why Eric isn't getting better recruitment placements for his players, in a show that in the end is about high-school football, is a crater-size blind spot. I think you're letting the writers off too easily, and I hope they get it together to fully explore this plot before the season's end. It's time to move beyond the girls at the pool to what it's really like to play for a place like OT. Who are these coaches and what's their approach to working with former juvie kids like Vince? What do their players do after college ends? While they're in school, do they take real classes, or do they pad their course schedules with basket-weaving the way the football team at Auburn used to do?

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I think you're right that the word for Eric's feelings about Vince's relationship with Ornette isn't jealousy. But I do think Eric feels let down and pushed away, and rightly so. Vince agreed to put himself in Coach's hands for the recruiting process; now he's cutting practice to go on rule-bending tours with his dad. Maybe you're right, David, and it all signals that the schools see him as a top prospect. But plenty of rising stars have come plummeting out of the sky for taking freebies or going around the regulations. Surely we're meant to see Ornette as flirting with disaster, and though I agree that it will be a little tedious if Eric's moralism is completely vindicated, there is still something to be said for listening to your coach, however square.

Meanwhile, congratulations to FNL's wonderful writers on their nomination from the Writers Guild this week for best writing for a TV drama. I say, take down Mad Men and then celebrate by getting "FNL" brands.

Emily

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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