Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S01E03 – Wind Sprints

In the third episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor faces the wrath of Dillon, Texas as team copes with a rough start to their season. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

This episode is really all about overreaction. At the focal point of “Wind Sprints” is the overreaction of the town of Dillon itself, who is as much a character in this show as it is a setting. From that first throw of Matt’s, this town was predisposed to hate him and Coach Taylor. The irony here is that everyone expected Matt to blow it, to repeat his first two snaps from the previous week’s game. Instead, the team’s flaw comes from the fact that the rest of the team couldn’t sync up with Matt. Matt wasn’t the problem in this game. It seems no one else believed in him either.

The loss spirals out of control immediately, with Matt and Coach Taylor as the primary victims. It’s so upsetting to watch because the town’s wrath is both misdirected and entirely unhelpful. Coach Taylor has to deal with the fact that everyone in his life is convinced that they know the game better than he does and that they’re a better coach than he is. We witness it when that total douchebag thinks it’s appropriate to insult Julie at a restaurant, as if threatening the coach’s daughter is suddenly going to be the magic spell to give the team a winning streak. But that’s why “Wind Sprints” is so deeply uncomfortable: We have to watch wave after wave of presumption on the part of Dillon, Texas. These people genuinely think they’re helping!!!

The main force behind this? Goddamn Buddy Garrity, who I like about as much as the common cold. “Wind Sprints” introduces a plot that is sure to end in disaster. Garrity decides that it’s totally not suspect to recruit someone specifically to be the new quarterback, and he goes after Ray Tatum, whose entire family was displaced due to Hurricane Katrina. See, I wouldn’t have a problem with what Garrity does for Tatum’s family if it wasn’t so scummy. He talks so much about how generous and charitable Dillon is, but the truth is that Garrity views Tatum as nothing more than a win. He’s barely a person to Garrity, and you can tell that the Tatums are (understandably!) suspicious of everything the man says. I’d like to think that the only reason Tatum chose to play for Dillion is because Coach Taylor was the first person to treat Tatum as if he was his own man, willing to make his own decisions and play football.

Of course, this isn’t without some disastrous consequences. (AND IT HASN’T EVEN GOTTEN THAT BAD YET.) First, Matt is left feeling more pressure than ever. Is he going to be replaced? Was he not good enough? God, can you even imagine how it would feel if you performed brilliantly, but you’re still being replaced? As he tells Tami, he wants to keep playing, but he’s unsure if he’ll ever get the chance again. I was happy that of anyone in Dillon, he was honest with Tami, since she’s clearly the more compassionate Taylor. She’s able to get him to admit that football is his true happiness. In a way, I read that whole scene with her as a way for him to admit that football was an escape for his life at home, where he was expected to be the man of the house simply because there was no one else to help out his grandmother. And now this is going to be taken away from him?

For Coach Taylor, this whole decision is yet another sign of the fact the people surrounding him don’t trust him. Buddy Garrity is telling Taylor how to do his job, which is bad enough. The man owns a car dealership. MAYBE HE SHOULD STAY THERE. But then Smash – in a gloriously arrogant and foolish moment – GOES ON TELEVISION TO INSULT COACH TAYLOR’S ABILITY. Oh lord. Lord. What have you done, Smash? YOU HAVE AWOKEN THE KRAKEN WITHIN COACH TAYLOR. Despite that it actually seems to work to build team morale, it’s perhaps the most ridiculous display of an overreaction in “Wind Sprints.” Coach Taylor gathers his team in the middle of the night to run wind sprints up the side of a hill in the rain. Granted, it does help Smash realize that he can’t be a champion himself if he’s going to slag off his coach, but DUDE. DUDE. Coach Taylor! All I could think during that scene was, “ONE OF THESE GUYS WILL GET A COLD AND THAT’S NOT GOOD.”

Amidst all of this, the writers further develop Lyla and Jason’s relationship, moving them towards a rather ruinous collision with Riggins. As Lyla refuses to be anything but the most supportive girlfriend to Jason, Riggins continues to blame himself for Jason’s injury. Riggins, more destructive than usual, follows his alcoholism with a growing sense of self-hatred. While I understand his behavior more than I did before (as I’d not considered that he would blame himself), I have to admit that he’s largely insufferable in this episode. He’s just plain mean to everyone, including his girlfriend and especially Jason and Lyla. He hasn’t visited his best friend in the hospital once, and then… GODDAMN.

There are just so many things that could go wrong here. Lyla and Riggins, what are you doing??? Like, I understand that she was incredibly upset after Jason’s fatalism got the best of him. While I find Lyla sweet and supportive, she hasn’t been listening to Jason at all. How can she be supportive if he doesn’t even feel comfortable enough with her to be honest?

None of this is an excuse for Lyla making out with Jason’s best friend. (Oh god, I just realized that maybe she was late because she did more than just make out with Riggins? LORD.) And Lyla is now detached from Jason because she knows what she did was wrong. The sheer irony of Jason’s apology hit me like a brick to the chest. “I’m sorry for last night,” he says. OH GOD, HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENED.

I’m hoping that things turn around for this team in the immediate future, but with the addition of an outsider like Tatum, this doesn’t look good at all. I honestly didn’t expect to develop so many feelings for Friday Night Lights so rapidly, but now I can’t stop them. GREAT.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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