I’m not much of a tv watcher. There are very few shows I follow and very rarely do they hold my attention from one season to the next. But this summer I got HOOKED on Friday Night Lights. It’s a story about a high school football team in the tiny fictional town of Dillon, Texas. I stumbled across a rerun on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I caught the last half of an episode and immediately searched out every episode I could find on Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. Eventually a friend of mine lent me the entire series on DVD and it was all over from there. I watched the whole thing (all 5 seasons!!!) in a matter of 2 months!
I love football stories (Remember the Titans, Rudy, etc…), so it’s no surprise that I loved the show. But what was surprising was that even though it’s a show about high school football, it’s not really about football. It’s more about the characters and the relationships that form between them. Football is merely a back drop for the character development of the story. And the character that stands at the center of it all is Coach Eric Taylor.
Coach Taylor is an up and coming sought after coach. Through the 5 seasons he takes his team to the State Championship 3 times and receives various offers to coach at the college level but decides to remain at the high school level. And what surprised me the most about the show was how observing Coach Taylor coach up his team, inspired me to be a better pastor. Here’s why.
1. He invests in his players off the field. When his players are in the hospital, he goes to see them. When they screw up and get arrested and are too afraid to call their parents, he goes and gets them. He visits them at home when he knows they need extra encouragement. He vouches for their character when others won’t. Ultimately, for coach, it’s about more than just football. His investment and influence in their lives off the field is equal to, if not greater than on the field.
2. He has conviction. At times he has to make hard decisions. Decisions that aren’t always popular with his team, coaching staff, the parents or the community. But those decisions are made from a place of deep conviction surrounding his coaching philosophy and priorities. He knows his mission and purpose as a coach and from that he has to decide what’s best for the team.
3. He sacrifices his career for his family, his team and the community. Twice throughout the series he turns down great job offers because it’s not what’s best for his family. Because his investment in the lives of certain players isn’t done. Ultimately, it comes down to loving his community more than advancement in his career. He puts other before himself.
4. He perseveres through adversity. The hard part about coaching in the fictitious town of Dillon, is that when you win the town loves you. But when you lose, they’re ready to throw you out with last night’s trash. There are times his motives and decisions are questioned. There are certain days it would be easier to sell used cars than coach football. But he doesn’t let the haters get him down. Each day he goes to work. He doesn’t get sidelined by all the talk. He sets his sights on the next practice or next game. He continues on even when it’s hard.
5. He believes in people when others don’t. He takes kids who don’t believe in themselves and turns them into leaders on his team. He gives them the opportunity even when other’s think he’s crazy. He gives them responsibility and won’t accept their poor excuses. He shows them it’s possible even when it seems impossible. He calls out their potential and shows them what they are capable to do.
6. He makes mistakes. Although he’s a man of character, he’s not perfect. He makes mistakes as a husband and father. He’s sometimes a bad friend. Other times he’s too hard on his players. But when he’s wrong, he admits it and seeks to make it right.
I realize it may seem silly to make comparisons about a fictitious football coach. But when it’s all said and done, like Paul says in Phil. 2, I want to pour out my life for the sake of the calling God has placed on my life. I want to be “all in” and hold nothing back. Watching FNL, you see Coach Taylor is that kind of guy. He pours himself out for the sake of others. He’s all in. If we all pursued our callings and passions with that mentality our churches, school and communities would be better of for it.
“Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.”