Friday Night Lights: Expectations vs. Reality

by Joey Giragos, Sports Contributor
graphic by Adrienne Lirio

High school football is a truly unique experience. 

Hundreds of rowdy teenage students pack a few rows of bleachers — a sea of white, pink or black, according to the spirit theme. Hyped-up students with refreshments in hand crowd together in groups, with the occasional supportive chant for their Lions. Friday Night Lights is flat-out fun.

But at first glance, the scene can be deceiving. As it was my first year at South, I had high expectations for my first game. I’d been to various professional and college games, but never a high school football game. I’d been told great things about the culture of the game and its environment, but upon getting there I felt unimpressed. 

I thought the crowd would be buzzing, but it was quite the opposite: a hush seemed to settle over the sparsely populated bleachers. I sat awkwardly with my friends, waiting for the game to start. But as the sun set and the fall air turned cool, the game began, and the crowd came to life. 

Before long, the student section was filled to the brim with kids from all grades, shouting for our Lions. The raucous chants of “I believe that we will win!” never seemed to get old, and my voice quickly grew hoarse. 

The craziness wasn’t limited to the fans, though. Even the players got in on the action, hyping up the crowd, hollering words that I’m sure the parents in attendance were unhappy to hear. When South scored the first touchdown of the game, I found myself high-fiving kids I didn’t even know, basking in the glory of taking the lead. I felt connected not only to the game but also to the people around me.

Sophomore lineman Oscar Mulcahey said that the vibrant energy carried into the performance of the team. “It’s electric,” he said.

The interesting part about the whole experience is that the actual football game itself seemed secondary to the social environment. After that first rushing touchdown, South didn’t score again and took a loss. 

If this were a Patriots game, the crowd would have left dejected and disappointed. Instead, the happy-go-lucky attitude of the South fans carried over despite the crushing defeat, which lightened the mood.

Friday Night Lights is an energizing and exciting experience where you can bond with your peers and watch some (decent) football. While it can take a while for that electricity to course through the crowd, by the end of the game everyone finds themselves in a good mood, joyful from the experience. 

I found myself feeling connected to the school and those around me — my first real sense of belonging in the community since I had started South just a few days earlier. I had given Friday Night Lights a chance, and it hadn’t let me down.