Friday Night Lights just received a much-deserving benediction at the Emmy Awards, despite the fact that those stuffed shirts can never undo the great injustice of snubbing Mrs. Connie Taylor, a.k.a. best person/mom/actress/my personal idol. But that was it, Hairpinners and lovers of gritty television realism: Coach has moved on to playing very serious policemen in E.T. rip-offs, Tim Riggins has become one of the X-Men, and Lyla Garrity is a Charlie’s Angel. Friday Night Lights is over.
But the time I did yoga with Matt Saracen, QB1 of my heart, will endure forever.
If you’ve never heard of Friday Night Lights, OK, fine, I understand that you’ve been in a space ship for the last 17 years hanging out with Wall-E or whatever, and now is the time for you to immediately right your wrongs.
If you have heard of it and persist in neglecting it despite the fact that it, like Bon Iver and Downton Abbey and Feist, is essentially a Hairpin pop cultural mascot, but you’re willing to give it a try, do so now. It’s on Netflix streaming, and I bet your boss will let you take the week off when you tell him it’s for a show about high school football THAT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT FOOTBALL! IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS! ALSO: RACE! BIRTH CONTROL! CLASS! Bosses totally love shows about class relations, trust!
And if you’re one of those people who wish that all of us would just shut up with our “Texas Forever”-ing and “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”-ing and “Tim-Riggins-Take-Off-Your-Shirt”-ing, then close the browser, because I am about to make it smell like super fangirl up in this piece.
As some Hairpinners know, I like/am obsessed with hot yoga. Until I moved to Farm On Big Rural Green Hill, Vermont, from Austin, Texas, I did it every day. And I did it every day at a studio in the center of Austin, about five minutes from the university.
Which meant two things:
1. There was usually a quorum of generally hot men between the ages of 20 – 30, all practicing yoga with their shirts off, and
2. Friday Night Lights did its location shooting somewhat nearby.
I did not choose my graduate school based on Friday Night Lights. Nor did I choose my yoga location based on its proximity to the shooting locations. In hindsight I was just lucky, and if I had thought things out more clearly, I probably could’ve been roommates with Tyra. But as it was, I had to settle for living a four-minute walk from East Dillon High and seeing Coach at the movies with his family.
Over the course of Friday Night Lights’ five years on the air, most Austinites developed a sort of star-spotting bingo: Buddy Garrity at the bar, Julie Taylor at The Driskell Hotel, Mrs. Coach at the Alamo Drafthouse, Lyla at the Crab Shack with John Mayer, Landry playing a show with his real-life-not-Crucifictorious-band, Tyra’s mom at my department’s faculty party.
But I had never seen Saracen, and I didn’t know anyone else who had either. Until one day, when I looked up from my downward dog, looked into the mirror, and thought Mmm mmm, that shirtless guy next to me is SMOKIN.' Look at his back! He looks like he could pretend to play football on network television!
And as we progressed through Warrior 1 and Warrior 2, as I secretly giggled at the funny way that guys do Warrior 2 all splayed and awkward like, I very surreptitiously continued my mirror check-out. Who was this guy? Why did I recognize the freckles? What was it about that kinda sorta strawberry blonde hair, those intense eyes?
And that’s when it hit –
MATT SARACEN. QB1. BOYFRIEND OF JULIE TAYLOR, LIKE-A-SON TO COACH TAYLOR, APPLE OF HIS GRAMMA’S EYE. Next to me. Doing his very best to contort himself into Eagle-pose.
I tried my best not to pee or scream or whimper or start yelling FNL slogans for the duration of the class. I am proud to say that I succeeded, even if my savasana was totally filled with dirty high school football thoughts. But I had to be certain, otherwise this would be a story about the best time I thought I maybe did hot yoga next to Matt Saracen.
After class, we slowly filed out into the reception area. He went to the hallway to fetch his belongings. I knew I had to hear his voice: If i could hear the slight lilt, that promise of a Southern drawl, that softness, then I’d know it was him, and my eyes were not deceiving me.
He was standing in front of the cubbies, so I pretended I needed to access something directly behind him.
Oh, I’m sorry, excuse me, he replied. And there it was: the voice split its airtime between stumbling awkwardly around Julie and making fun of Landry. So little, but there was my proof positive. Maybe he’d take me the Tasty Freeze afterwards?
I watched him walk out. I conferred with my friend, also in the class, also beside Saracen in yoga, to see if she had recognized him. She dissolved into a pile of yoga clothes and stifled screams. We watched him stride across the parking lot, about to leave our physical presence forever, off to re-win and re-lose Julie Taylor’s heart.
And dear readers, now is when I get to tell you the best thing you’ll hear all day:
He was driving a Honda Civic.
Previously: Scandals of Classic Hollywood.
Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here.