Friday Night Lights is the 2004 drama film that documents the coach and players of a high school football team and the Texas city of Odessa that supports and is obsessed with them. The book on which it was based, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, was authored by H. G. Bissinger and follows the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they made a run towards the state championship. A television series of the same name premiered on October 3, 2006 on NBC. This movie ranked number 37 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies. The release of the film saw it premiere in Franklin, Tennessee.
Bissinger followed the team for the entire 1988 season, which culminated in a loss in the State semi-finals against Carter High School from Dallas, who eventually went on to win the championship game but would have their title stripped for playing an ineligible player. However, the book also deals with — or alludes to — a number of secondary political and social issues existing in Odessa, all of which share ties to the Permian Panthers football team. These include socioeconomic disparity; racism; segregation (and desegregation); and poverty.
The coach, Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), is constantly on the hot seat. Tied into the successes and failure of the coach and the team in general are the conflicts the players struggle with on and off the gridiron. The coach overuses his star player, running back James "Boobie" Miles (Derek Luke), who gets seriously injured (Miles tore his ACL, missed the playoffs, and had a limp for the rest of his life). When this happens, sports radios are flooded with calls for his resignation. Miles' once-arrogant attitude vanishes as he sees his once promising chance of playing big-time college football disappear and starts to question his future after he notices his not-so promising academic standing. Quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) struggles with being able to play consistently, and his inability to make decisions for himself. Fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) has a rocky relationship with his father (Tim McGraw), who won a state championship at Permian and carries on a feud with his son for not performing on the level he'd like to see, despite the fact that Don doesn't do anything to light his father's temper. Third-string running back Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young), who takes the spot of Miles after his injury, attempts to get rid of his fear of being hit and getting injured, especially when the player who last occupied his spot suffered a season ending injury. His obsession with fame and recognition also comes at a high price that he is at first not ready to play. Safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) is easily the smartest player on the team, and the most confident in his future after high school football. One of the themes of the movie depicts the coach as a father-type figure for the players.
Coach Gaines triumphs and struggles with winning football games and connecting with his players a number of times during their tremulous season. His job depends on the Panthers making the playoffs, and his team is in a three-way tie with two other teams at the end of the regular season. Under Texas rules for ties, the tiebreaker is a coin-toss. In an effort to prevent a riot, the location of the coin-toss is kept under wraps. Permian gets a spot. They make it to the finals, where they narrowly lose to a powerhouse Dallas high school team.The movie ends with the coach removing the departing seniors from the depth chart on his wall. Notably, the depth chart has "Case" at quarterback. This refers to Permian's real-life backup quarterback in 1988, Stoney Case, who would go on to lead Permian, along with Chris Comer, to the 5A state title the following year, and still later made it to the NFL. The final scene consists of Winchell throwing a football to a bunch of pee-wees playing pick-up football before leaving with Billingsley and Chavez.
* Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines
* Lucas Black as Mike Winchell
* Garrett Hedlund as Don Billingsley
* Derek Luke as James "Boobie" Miles
* Jay Hernandez as Brian Chavez
* Lee Jackson III as Ivory Christian
* Lee Thompson Young as Chris Comer
* Tim McGraw as Charles Billingsley
* Connie Britton as Sharon Gaines
* Amber Heard as Maria
* Julius Tennon as Coach Freddie James
Differences between the movie and actual events
* Many players names and numbers were featured in the movie. Some of these were real and some were false. Brian Chavez's number was actually 85, and Boobie Miles' number was actually 35. However, player's numbers such as Wide Receiver Michael Aguirre's number 15 were correct. Other differences included where the Panthers lost and won games or where the games were actually played.
* In the movie James "Boobie" Miles is depicted as one of the team's three captains with Don Billingsly replacing him after Miles' injury, but that honor was held by Ivory Christian, Mike Winchell and Brian Chavez.
* In the movie some of the players' numbers and positions were changed: Boobie Miles in the movie is #45 and playing tailback, but in the book he is #35 and playing fullback with #26 Don Billingsley at tailback (Note: At the beginning of the film, as the camera pans over Coach Gaines' depth chart, you can see the name 'Miles' listed under the FB tag, but at the end when Gaines removes graduating seniors from the depth chart, you see Billingsly listed at FB). In the movie, Brian Chavez is #4 and plays strong safety, while he was actually the #85 tight end and defensive end. Ivory Christian, in the film, is a defensive end and wears #90, while he was really the #62 middle ("Mike") linebacker. Chris Comer was also the backup fullback in the book, not a third-string tailback. One of the athletic directors in the stadium booth also mentions "I think he's a Sophomore," when Comer was really a Junior in real life. Comer also wore #45 in the real season, but in the movie he wears #42. Also, Alan Wyles is depicted as a starting wide receiver, but in reality he was a placekicker who is listed on the roster as a wide receiver.
* Don Billingsley's father Charlie is depicted in the movie as having won a state championship. In reality, his Permian team lost in the state finals.
In the movie the team is depicted as practicing in full pads and with full contact on the first day of practice. Under rules of the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for Texas public-school sports, teams cannot use pads or hit until the 4th day of practice.
* A Permian booster is heard toasting Coach Gaines' second season as Permian's head coach. It was actually his third.
* Boobie Miles, in the book, injured his leg by getting his foot caught on AstroTurf during a pre-season scrimmage against Amarillo Palo Duro at Jones Stadium in Lubbock. In the movie he is tackled by two players at the knee during a blowout non-district game at Ratliff Stadium.
* In the movie, the top-ranked Permian Panthers defeated the hapless Marshall Bulldogs in a non-district game, the game is the season opener, and played on a Friday night in Odessa. In real life, the third-ranked Marshall Mavericks (whose colors are red and white, not purple and gold) defeated fourth-ranked Permian 13–12, and was Permian's second game of the season, and played at Maverick Stadium in Marshall on a Saturday afternoon. Permian's football team chartered a jet for the 500+ mile trip from Odessa to Marshall, spawning controversy on the cost of the trip. Played before a crowd of more than 12,000 fans at Maverick Stadium, the game was on a searing September afternoon where the temperature topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 °C). (The footage shown in the movie is from a game against the Midland High Bulldogs, who weren't mentioned in the movie. Permian defeated the Dawgs 42–0 in district play, but the two teams ended up in a three-way tie along with Midland Lee for the district title.)
* In the movie, district play began in week 2. In the real regular season, district play would have begun in week 4.
* In the movie, Permian defeats "North Shore Galena" in a mid-season (presumably district) game. In reality, North Shore High School is located in Galena Park, a suburb of Houston, over 500 miles (800 km) southeast of Odessa. Although North Shore and Permian have both been 5A football powerhouses, they have never played.
* In reality, the three teams tied for best district record were Permian, Midland Lee, and Midland High, all with 5–1 district records. In the movie, Permian and Lee are joined not by Midland but by Abilene Cooper, and each team has two district losses. The tie breaking coin flip was held at a truck stop outside of Midland, and Midland High lost (Cooper in the movie), so Permian and Lee went on. Midland High's missing the playoffs was particularly poignant as it had not been to the playoffs since 1951 and would not get to go on to post-season play until 2002.
* In a few scenes, players are shown wearing Under Armour-branded apparel and Ridell Revolution helmets, when in 1988, Under Armour and Revolution helmets hadn't been invented yet (future Under Armour founder Kevin Plank was a high school football player in 1988). The book actually says Dallas-Carter wore green visors, which at the time of filming had been declared illegal both by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), high school football's national governing body, and by the UIL. (Note that the UIL's ban is separate from that of NFHS—the UIL does not use the NFHS football rulebook.) Also when they show the town right before Boobie Miles goes to see the doctor you can see a beige Dodge Durango, which was not introduced until 1997 (for the 1998 model year).
* At one point in the movie, the camera flashes to the scoreboard where you can see that Bank of America was the sponsor, later on in the movie, you see the same scoreboard with Nations Bank as the sponsor. However in 1988-89, the bank name was actually North Carolina National Bank. The name changed to Nations Bank in 1991 and then to Bank of America 5 years later.
* Permian's first opponent in the playoffs was Amarillo Tascosa (31–7) and not Dallas Jesuit as in the movie. In fact, in 1988 Texas public schools (such as Permian, Carter, and Amarillo High) and private schools (such as Jesuit) competed in separate leagues with separate playoffs. Jesuit was not allowed to join the previously all-public school UIL until 2003, starting football competition in 2004. Dallas Jesuit and Strake Jesuit of Houston are currently the only private schools who play in the UIL, the rest competing in leagues such as TAPPS and the SPC. Also, given the district setup at that time, it would have been impossible for Permian to play a team from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex until the third round for the playoffs. Now, however, Permian would play Fort Worth-area teams in the first round of the playoffs (they actually defeated Irving Nimitz 48-7 during the Regionals/3rd round; Chris Comer rushed for 221 yards and scored four touchdowns-), but still could not play Jesuit until round 3. Permian did play Dallas Jesuit in Odessa during the regular season in 1988, winning 48–2 (Winchell had two rushing touchdowns and junior fullback Chris Comer rushed for 185 yards on 13 carries). Jesuit's only points came on a missed-PAT return, which was a new rule instituted that year.
* In the movie, it is said that Carter was the state's top-ranked team, Carter was ranked #1 and Permian was ranked #2 in the Southwest Region, and Carter was ranked #12 nationally (Permian was not ranked nationally) in the National Prep Football Poll.
* Carter is depicted playing Hays High School in the playoffs. Hays High is depicted as wearing green and white and nicknamed the Rams. The real Jack C. Hays High School, located 15 minutes south of Austin in Buda, instead uses red, white, and blue as its colors, and its nickname is Rebels. Hays was a Class 4A school in 1988 and did not become 5A until 2000. Hays was in the movie because the makers filmed crowd shots at Hays High during a Rebels home game against the Austin Westlake Chaparrals, another team depicted as being a Permian playoff victim. *In the movie, Permian plays Amarillo High School in the semifinals. Amarillo is depicted wearing blue and white, while their actual colors are black and gold.
* Permian was also depicted as playing “San Angelo” in the quarterfinal round. There are actually two high schools in the San Angelo Independent School District; San Angelo Central High School (the district's only 5A school) had, until 1998, been in the same district for football as Permian (having since been transferred, for football only, to the district with Lubbock and Amarillo schools), and could only have played Permian in the quarterfinal round (owing to the structure of UIL playoffs) if they had qualified. However, Central finished 5th in the district that year, and as only two teams from each district qualified in 1988, Permian and Central did not play in the 1988 playoffs.
Permian vs. Carter
* Since 1982, the UIL Class 5A football playoffs have had six rounds (though a second, parallel playoff bracket of five rounds was added in 1990, later also expanded to six rounds in 2006), so while Permian did play Dallas Carter in the fifth round, in reality it was a semi-final and not a final. In the Texas playoffs, a team from North or Western Texas always plays a team from Southern Texas in the final. So the Carter vs Permian final would not have been possible. The actual final featured Carter versus Converse Judson (who would later defeat Permian in the 1995 state championship). The Carter-Permian game was played in front of 10,000 people in a heavy downpour at The University of Texas at Austin's Memorial Stadium, not in front of 55,000 in the Astrodome in Houston. The movie highlights a call made by a black referee of a catch where the ball skips the ground; that play did or did not happen depending on which side you supported. The incident is mentioned in the book however. While the game in the movie was a high-scoring affair (34–28), the score of the actual game was 14–9 in favor of Carter. In real life Permian held a 9–7 lead for most of the game and it was Carter who made the dramatic fourth quarter comeback to win. On the last play of the game, Winchell threw an incomplete ball tipped by Carter player and later NFL-Pro Bowler Jessie Armstead, rather than running it himself close to the goal line.
* Many people in Dallas were highly upset at how the Dallas Carter coach was portrayed as villainous. The actual coach, Freddie James, was highly respected and considered a Dallas legend. The movie version of the book depicted the Carter team as unsportsmanlike and arrogant. The game was played without incident and without any confrontation between either team.
* While Carter won the 1988 Texas 5A Championship against Converse Judson by a score of 31-14 on the field, Carter was later stripped of its title when a University Interscholastic League rules violation was discovered (Carter had an ineligible player). As a result, Converse Judson was declared the official champ and the score is recorded as a 1-0 victory for them. The disqualification did not roll back to any prior games, however, so Odessa Permian's grittier performance in the semi-final game against Dallas Carter still stands as a 14-9 loss. Fans are left to speculate on the result of a Converse Jusdson vs. Odessa Permian final.
The school and the city
* Ratliff Stadium is depicted as the location for Permian football practices. In reality, the team mostly practices on campus, and the stadium (which both Permian and Odessa High use) is on the outskirts of town in a fairly unpopulated area and about three miles (five km) away from the Permian High campus. It is also unlikely that children would be playing touch football near the stadium, as depicted in the movie, as few houses were nearby at that time. The area around the stadium has grown dramatically since then (which caused an anachronism in the movie — the houses you see near the stadium weren't there at the time).
During a football scene, the modern logo for Bank of America can be seen underneath a stadium scoreboard. Although Bank of America existed in 1988, the logo seen in the film was not used until 1998, when today's Bank of America was created via the purchase of the original Bank of America by NationsBank. In other scenes, however, period-specific ads were used, including Pan Am and Oldsmobile logos at the Astrodome.
In the championship game versus Dallas Carter, the Carter players are wearing Under Armour products; the company was not founded until 1996, and in 1988, the founder Kevin Plank was a high school football player in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition, while showing scenes from the town, a silver Dodge Durango can be seen, which was not produced until the 1998 model year.
A "goof" that wasn't
During the opening kickoff of the championship game between Dallas-Carter and Permian, the Permian returner attempted to run the ball out of the end zone and is tackled at the three yard line.
Most followers of high school football would consider this a "goof", because under NFHS rules, the ball is ruled dead immediately and a touchback is called once the ball enters the end zone by breaking the plane of the goal line. However, this scene is actually an accurate depiction of Texas high school football – the UIL, although being a member of NFHS, does not use NFHS rules for football, choosing instead to play under NCAA rules (with minor modifications, the most substantial being the duration of quarters (12 minutes instead of 15) and the kickoff location (40-yard line instead of 30)). Under NCAA rules, a kickoff that crosses the plane of the goal line remains a live ball and can be run out.
It should also be noted that the rule allowing a missed PAT to be returned by the defense for a 2-point score, mentioned earlier in the article, is also an NCAA rule that is not used by NFHS but is used by UIL.
The players wearing darkened or coloured visors, which have been banned for use in high school football in Texas, is not an inaccuracy on the part of the filmmakers. According to the book in reference to the Dallas Carter team: "Several of them wore dark green visors over their helmets, a new equipment feature that served no obvious purpose other than to make football player look more menacing and killer-like than they already did.
Main characters also had their positions changed, scores and even outcomes of games were changed for the film. The book clearly states that the average Permian player was 160 lbs soaking wet, yet the Permian players in the movie appear to be built like pro athletes. Many attribute this to the "high school film aging factor." In most high school movies, characters in their teens are portrayed by actors in their 20's, making them look much older than the average student.
* Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams (a Permian alumnus) has a cameo in the movie, ironically, as an assistant coach for Midland Lee (Permian's arch-rival).
* New York Jets cornerback Ty Law plays a wide receiver for Dallas Carter, the team Permian plays in the movie's state championship game (as noted earlier, the real Permian-Carter game was a semifinal). He wears jersey #2, his last name is Graf, and he eventually catches a one-handed touchdown pass.
* The real James "Boobie" Miles plays a Permian assistant coach in the film. Although he has no lines, he is seen several times. In the locker room scene at halftime of the state championship game, he is seen standing next to the fictional "Boobie" Miles as Coach Gaines gives his speech.
Main article: Friday Night Lights (soundtrack)
The soundtrack for the film predominantly features post-rock band Explosions in the Sky. Music by Daniel Lanois and rock band Bad Company are also included. The pump up song that is featured as the team runs through the tunnel in the game against Dallas Carter is "New Noise" by the seminal Swedish punk band Refused. Also, during the start of the third quarter during the Championship game, the song "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges is used.