“Clear eyes, full heart” has been a favorite of mine ever since I heard Dillion, Texas football coach Eric Taylor wrap up a motivational speech with it in the movie “Friday Night Lights.”
The television program, which followed the movie and an inspirational book, debuted in 2006 and aired its final showing last week. It is a program my wife, Kay, and I will miss.
Although the “Friday Night Lights” television program never drew huge audiences and was once pulled for its low ratings, it was a contemporary look at small-town America and the issues facing those citizens.
Of course, I enjoyed the show for its football scenes, but I think my wife liked it because it was a family show in which the two main characters Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife Tami (Connie Britton) faced their share of problems, but always managed to compromise and communicate.
The football scenes were first-rate productions that relied on heavy use of cheerleaders, fans, uniforms, players and the real-life Pflugerville Panthers.
“Friday Night Lights” took its inspiration from a 1990 book entitled Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team and a Dream by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger. The book details the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Texas.
In 2004, the “Friday Night Lights” movie starred Billy Bob Thornton and was directed by Bissinger’s second cousin.
The film’s characters were based on real-life residents of Odessa in 1988.
A young man I coached at PHS in football in the late 1980s, Mark Velasco, once invited Kay and I to join him and his wife for dinner and a showing of the movie in a Flagstaff theater.
The evening was a real treat for both Kay and I because Mark has always been a favorite of ours.
When Mark played for PHS, he must have taken notice of my sideline demeanor, because he cautioned me entering the theater, “coach this is just a movie, don’t get all excited and start shouting and yelling.”
I promised I wouldn’t, but there were times I found myself trying to read the defense of Panther opponents.
While the television program was not flawless and seemed to lose some of its innocence over the years, it featured a strong football element, was accomplished and engaging and might have been the perfect way for old football coaches and their wives to spend a weekday evening.
Drama and histrionics in Eagar-Springerville increased dramatically last week when word traveled around the two towns that Elk football coach Russ Seymore was going to be fired and would soon be checking into Barrow’s Neurological Institute in Phoenix to undergo brain surgery.
All that turmoil and mayhem was heaped upon on a recent school board announcement that all sports at Round Valley High School were going to be eliminated due to district budget cuts.
While there is very little information coming out of the Eastern Arizona twin towns about the future of prep sports, sources are saying Seymore is not being fired, but will report to Barrow’s to undergo the surgery to eliminate chances of him having a stroke or aneurysm.
Stress of coaching football is said to be a contributing cause to his illness.
When word traveled that Seymore had been fired, the community and school rallied behind him. Reportedly, many of the students — some say the entire student body — walked out of class in support of him remaining as coach.
Also, sources are saying the school district office was swamped with calls backing Seymore.
Apparently Seymore was not fired — the whole affair was a misunderstanding between the coach and the RV district superintendent.
It’s tough to believe school administrators would want to get rid of Seymore because he’s been a very successful coach, taking the Elks to the state tournament each of his seven years at RVHS.
He’s also well respected in the profession and coaches an exciting brand of football that packs in fans.
But if the rumors were true, he wouldn’t be the first top notch coach in the state to be given walking papers by know-nothing administrators influenced by misguided and ill-informed parents.
Hooray for the students and townspeople of Eagar-Springerville who stepped up to support their coach.
Ricedorf still a Cougar
Also on the small-town Arizona coaching scene, Show Low coach Randy Ricedorf was one of two finalists for the vacant Chandler High School job, but was not selected.
The position was give to Shaun Aguano, the offensive coordinator to Jim Ewan, who stepped down as head coach at the end of the 2010 season.
Ricedorf is the most successful coach in Show Low football history, having led the Cougars to the state game three times in four years.
Although he did not get the Chandler job, Ricedorf is expected to apply for other vacancies including one at Mesa Mountain View.