Saturday, October 09, 2004

Mojo in Ol' Dusty

I went to see a movie today; it was either Taxi or Friday Night Lights, and given that I was born in Odessa, Texas, and Friday Night Lights is a story about Odessa high school football, Friday Night Lights won out.

Friday Night Lights, starring Billy Bob Thornton, focused almost entirely on the football side of things, despite the fact that what I remember most about the book on which it is based are some rather unfavorable comparisons between Permian High and Odessa High in academics. Bissinger, who wrote the book, canceled book signings in Odessa because of threats on his life; people were, shall we say, unamused by the book. The movie, by focusing so much on football itself, drops all the critical side of the book and becomes a sports story. Odessa, with a population of 70,000 or so, drops out of sight as vague 'small town' background - it barely exists; Ratliff Stadium, Odessa's super-sized high school football stadium and home of the Permian Panthers, occupies virtually the whole of the movie's universe. The Astrodome replaces the University of Texas football field for the final battle. And, weirdly, the Permian Panthers play the Carter Cowboys at the State finals rather than in the semi-finals. And (most annoying of all) the movie fails to capitalize the 'West' in West Texas. It's North Texas, West Texas, etc. If you want your cardinal directions not to be capitalized, go to a smaller state.

Nonetheless, it all comes together very well. Focusing on the football actually makes it one of the best sports movies I've seen in a while (Miracle perhaps was better, but FNL does fairly well even in comparison). People who are less interested in the team and more interested in the lives of the characters might not like it as much. In any case, if you do go see it, you should also read this article online in the Houston Chronicle, about the infamous coin toss.

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