We’ve heard the term. Some have watched the movie and/or TV series. But last Friday night, Grant County was a proud host of its own “Friday Night Lights.” Two schools separated by fewer miles than you have fingers. Two strong programs. Two rivals. It was the makings of an exciting night and ever since fans started looking at the schedules during the summer, THIS night was highlighted. Both teams, both sets of coaches, both sides of fans gathered early for a proverbial clash of the titans. The Panthers. The Indians. Conference implications on the line. The future of the infamous conference milk jug (let’s just say it, “Frank”) riding on this game, these 48 minutes.
Speaking about this night nearly a week later and being attached to the team that had the higher number when the clock hit 0.0, it would be easy to puff out our chests and trash talk about the outcome. It would be easy to talk about how sweet it is to beat a rival. It would be almost fun to mention players, coaches, or fans by name to rub their noses in the results of this year’s contest.
But being nearly on the field, being so close to much of the action, ONE thing really stood out to me. In spite of the energy and aggression, in spite of the hard hits and the celebrations, in spite of great plays that made the opponent look bad for a moment, it would be irresponsible if I would neglect to mention the mutual respect that was shown. After the pile ups, one could often see players being helped up by men wearing a different color jersey. If you looked close enough, there were pats on the helmets of opponents when good plays were made. Was it a big ‘love-fest’? By no means. Both sides wanted to win and fought with everything in them. But it was beyond refreshing to see that in the midst of a world that is divided by conflict, there are warriors who respect each other, knowing the sacrifices and dedication it takes to stand on opposing sides of the field.
To me, THIS is the definition of “Friday Night Lights” – to have the parking lot (and open field) filled with cars; to have the stands almost full 40 minutes before kickoff; to have the noise during the game be almost deafening; and to have two proud schools and two proud sets of fans clash for a few brief moments before meeting each other for coffee, or pizza, or a movie later in the week.
So, tomorrow is another Friday. It’s another home game for our Panthers against another county rival. How about we have another night of rowdy support, losing our voices, and ringing our cowbells? Go Panthers! Exceed expectations. Oh, and welcome home, Frank!
-article by Todd Syswerda