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12 Most Fond Memories of Friday Night Lights

12 Most Fond Memories of Friday Night Lights

How many of you watch the Friday Night Lights series? How many of you lived and breathed it? I firmly believe some of my best life lessons came on south Texas football fields. I loved football, and I detested football! I chafed under the yoke of having to play football in a small town, if I wanted to be anybody, and I am thankful I never walked away from the game.

The passage of time leads to more fond reminiscing. I can step back from the individual events and struggles, the single brush strokes, and review the entire canvas. I hope the 12 points below help you visualize the religion that is small-town Texas football – under the Friday Night Lights.

1. Endurance

My high school class had the high school principal’s son and the high school head coach’s son. We were picked in 8th grade to be the class that took Cuero back to the state title. The next 5 years of our school careers molded us to meet that goal. It was not a journey for the faint-hearted because we got pushed, screamed at, and literally kicked in the pants. I hated it at the time, and I would not trade it now.

2. Perseverance

I was too small to be a lineman and too slow to be a running back or wide receiver. There was no way I was going through the hell of those football practices and not touch the field on game day. I became the guy who lifted with the linemen and ran with the backs. I became the utility player that rarely started but got more playing time than some starters. That reward did not come as a result of my talent; it came from a hard work ethic and not liking my alternatives.

3. Two-a-days

Regardless of what level of football you play, you dread two-a-days. We used to have a 3-hour morning practice and a 2 1/2 hour evening practice. Temperatures would exceed 104 degrees with a heat index of 114 degrees! We sucked on salt tablets like candy, and we always looked to the skies for that first “norther”.

4. Shutting down the town

Even today, I still remember the population sign at the city limits since I passed it each day driving to school from “the country”: Welcome to Cuero, TX – population 7,124. That population consisted of farmers, ranchers, gas station owners, welders, pipe fitters, journeymen electricians, and local store and restaurant owners. I struggled against its constraints as a teenager, and I long for it as a “time and values gone by” now. Every storefront showed their football pride, and every football player had a picture of the team mascot wearing their number in their front yard. When the team traveled, shops would close down, and the majority of the town would follow those school buses with banners streaming and horns blaring.

5. Offseason training

I never wanted to be “that guy” — the one bent down losing his lunch, or passing out from heat exhaustion, or getting raked across the coals for coming into two-a-days out of shape. I hated to run, but I ran twice a day during the summer to stay in shape. And we would all lift weights in a rusty, run down weight room. That also built great camaraderie and trust amongst teammates.

6. Hope

High school football helps you briefly forget plant layoffs, livestock and crops dying as a result of drought, and rising gas prices. Hope for a deep run into the playoffs has you talking about football all week, reading the local sports page, and looking forward to Friday nights!

7. Homecoming

I have attended a few of my daughters’ high school homecoming games. They are a farce compared to the pomp and circumstance that accompanied our games. Girls would wear huge mums from their boyfriends. My grandparents took me in when I was 13 years old. I almost cried as I walked across that football field in my full uniform with a grandparent on each arm. They saved me from a different lifestyle, and Texas football helped shape my character.

8. Top of the ears, top of the collar

In small town Texas — before a more relaxed, “enlightened”, and tolerant viewpoint permeated even the smallest of schools — young men wore their hair cut to the top of their ears and the top of the collar. If you were a football player, you were liable to get “licks” if you needed more than one reminder. That will be a hugely controversial topic for some readers, but it taught respect and pride in personal appearances.

9. Discipline — and never ask “Why?”

Speaking of “licks”, it seemed like a football coach or principal was always looking for a reason to warm up the ol’ paddle. Park wrong in the parking lot… licks. Tardy for class… licks. Not making your grades… licks. Some football players hoped to be the ones who broke the paddle so they could become a local legend.

One of my most memorable anecdotes: I was flirting with the girl who ran attendance and who sat right outside the vice principal’s office. My friends thought it would be funny to lift me up and throw me through the window. The window wasn’t open wide enough, and it shattered as I went flying through it. When I looked up, the vice principal just motioned me into his office where he was already reaching for his paddle! I never broke one of those blasted things!!

10. Drugs made you a pariah

How much easier would it be for us as parents if peer pressure kept our kids off drugs rather than entice kids to use them? A of couple football players had a few brief experiences with drugs, and the entire football team turned against them until they cleaned up their act. When you were not at your best, you hurt the entire team. And that just isn’t cool!

11. Rule the school

I am not going to gloss over it — if you played on the football team, you did receive preferential treatment. I remember a girl parked her VW bug in “my parking space” one time. Several of us picked up the car and moved it to a different parking space with no repercussions. Then there was the time we enticed the chemistry teacher to sniff homemade ether… that was a riot (albeit incredibly stupid)! All-in-all, we did a pretty good job not abusing our privileges, though. We lived in a time where our parents would be happy to hear that we got “licks” from the school authorities, and they had plenty of extra chores for us if we got out of line. And do any of my readers remember the long walk to “cut your own switch”?

12. Immortals and broken dreams

Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days was released in 1984. I listened closely to the lyrics in that song. I watched superstars of the gridiron move on to college, fail when they were no longer the superstar, and return to take minimum wage jobs in a small town. There is honor and dignity in some of those jobs when you get to make the choice. But I never wanted to reach that point, or under-deliver on potential because I could not cope outside of a small town environment. Yes, teammates from my own class that made it to the state championship game fell victim to this trap.

I know some readers will think that a south Texas football environment was abusive and egotistical. In many cases, those readers would be correct. In fact, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) had to mandate practice policies because kids started dying from over-working in the Texas heat. But when life punches me in the mouth, I do not fall back on my college degree. I remember lessons learned on that football field, and I make myself get up.

Did you play high school sports? Learn anything?

Republished with permission, courtesy of 12 MostPhoto Credit: Columbia Roughnecks vs CC Miller Buccaneers by jrandallc, on Flickr

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Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

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