In the fourth episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, Matt is overwhelmed by the prospect of playing another game. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
While mostly a set up for the inevitable game between Arnett Meade and Dillon, “Who’s Your Daddy” explores the myriad of issues that are tearing apart the team, a marriage, a relationship, and one kid. Spoiler alert: A lot of them are daddy issues.
Let’s talk about this.
Here’s the first episode where I can find a reason to talk about why sports don’t interest me that much. People can give a damn about a sports team to a degree that destroying that team’s locker room, or a quarterback’s car, or a beating up someone is totally rational to them. At no point do some of these people think, “Hey, this is probably a bad idea.” Matt doubts it at first, and then he later takes his frustration out on Arnett Meade’s quarterback’s car. He’s about the only player who demonstrates any sort of conscience.
I like to talk shit on the Lakers a lot because I used to live in and near downtown Los Angeles. That’s where the Staples Center was located. During play-offs, we had to worry about whether a Laker loss or victory would inspire their fans to riot that day. In one particular incident just before I moved, it was so awful that cops started visiting buildings to tell people not to leave the house because the mob was just randomly beating people up that they came across. Because their team won, for the record. Now, I know that this is an international phenomenon, and I don’t understand how we don’t openly talk about how sports fandoms are the worst fandoms imaginable. They are! They are consistently the worst and the most deadly, and that’s not even exaggerating.
After a devastating, humiliating loss, these players are lashing out at each other and the other team. It’s absurd, but it’s how they know how to deal with this. It doesn’t help that Tatum comes in, acting as if he’s above the team. No one seems to like him all that much, though his talent is undeniable. Still, I can’t help but think that recruiting Tatum is going to be a disaster! How can Garrity go on PUBLIC RADIO and brag about recruiting Tatum like that? Dude, what are you doing? THIS IS GOING TO BACKFIRE.
The pressure that this team is under is hyper-focused on Coach Taylor, and “Who’s Your Daddy” shows us how this is spreading to Taylor’s family. Eric nearly forgets his daughter’s dance recital; he then fails to warn his wife about the local tradition of hosting a massive barbecue at the coach’s house, leading her to scramble to feed over 100 people in less than 48 hours. It’s here that Tami begins to break down, upset that her husband doesn’t seem to understand how this is all affecting her life. She’s acting the part of the dutiful wife for him, but he can’t appreciate that she’s got her own stresses and needs as well. Oh god, I started to worry that this was the start of something a million times worse. The scene underneath that table was bad enough. And it’s not like Tami is wrong about her perception of things! So when Eric started off with that half-assed apology in Tami’s office, I figured this would be the shit hitting the fan. WHICH I DIDN’T WANT! They’re such a cute and adorable couple, and things are stressful enough as it is. Seriously, I did not expect this show to be so emotionally draining to watch, at least not at first. But that’s the brilliance of Friday Night Lights so far. We really do get a sense for how overwhelming life is for these people, and I’m continually impressed that the writers and actors are able to convey this so efficiently.
Anyway, it isn’t until Coach Taylor has to pick up Matt from the hospital and really talk to him that he comes to accept that Tami’s job is way harder than he thought it was. I’m thankful, though, that Coach Taylor did offer Matt the moral support he needed. While I will get to Matt in a bit, it’s important to note that up until this point, no one had ever spelled out this kind of support for Matt. Coach Taylor knows there’s something special and unique in the kid, and that means he’s willing to invest the time and energy in him.
LYLA. TIM. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? As Lyla accepts the reality of Jason’s condition, it’s clear that she’s coping by doing something GODDAMN FOOLISH. Stop. Stop. You are both going to regret this later, especially Lyla. It’s particularly heartbreaking to watch it happen because Jason is on a completely different journey, unaware that his girlfriend is being unfaithful with his best friend. Who, by the way, is still refusing to visit Jason. Out of all three of them, I have the least amount of sympathy for Riggins, y’all.
I was fascinated by the introduction of Jason’s new roommate, who obviously irritates Jason within seconds. I think that Jason sees his future in this guy, first of all. He sees a future confined to a wheelchair, and he sees what else his injury is going to mean to him. Why else do you think he gets so mad when the guy begins listing out all the negative effects of a life in a wheelchair? It certainly doesn’t help that our society has an awful stigma for people who are disabled or who use wheelchairs. This guy (Sparky was his name? Or Herc? I got confused with that for a second.) riles Jason up on purpose for what he says was to show that he still had some “fight” left in him. I’m not sure why, but I did notice that only Herc and Tyra came to offer Jason some support that wasn’t disingenuous or fake. Perhaps this is Herc’s way of trying to make a friend? I don’t know. I’d be interested to see more of this.
And I don’t mean to suggest that Matt is a child, but I used that word specifically because what Matt faces in “Who’s Your Daddy” shows us just how difficult Matt’s life has been. He’s the sole caretaker of his grandmother, who disappears for a few hours in this episode due to her worsening dementia. His father proves to have some pretty low expectations for his son, as well as a lack of sympathy for the myriad of pressures and fears that he’s facing. There’s a point in this episode where Matt talks to his father on the phone, and he turns back to look at his grandmother, and he… well, damn. He just looks like a scared little kid. But Matt doesn’t have the luxury of getting to be a kid, either. No one helps him take care of his grandmother. No one (until Coach Taylor at the end) ever supports him and his efforts to be a good quarterback. His attempts to get Julie’s attention are all awkwardly rebuffed. The dude is not having the best time of his life, and it just makes me sad.
That is, until Coach Taylor finally gives him the emotional support he’s clearly craving. I think that Matt just needs someone to stick up for him, to believe in him. His own teammates don’t. (Notice how none of them express any concern for the fact that he might get in trouble for bashing that quarterback’s car. I also don’t believe any of them would have picked him up at the hospital.) And he’s still facing the possibility that Buddy Garrity will bully Coach Taylor into starting Tatum instead of him.
My only hope at this point is that Coach Taylor will still fight for Matt Saracen. The kid needs it.
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Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on tour!!! I have 26 events spread out across the eastern HALF of the U.S. and Canada. They are all free and all-ages. Come see me speak about the Mark Does Stuff Universe and read terrible fanfiction live!
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