From the archive
But as Friday Night Lights is a modern show in a post-modern world, Riggins’ quest is not for some tangible object—a trophy, say, though he wants that too—but for an elusive intangible. Riggins’ is a futile quest for an immaterial concept; he is searching for something called “Texas Forever.”
Riggins is a man of few words, but he says “Texas, Forever” a lot. It’s a fraternal drunken toast around a dwindling bonfire, a rallying cry in the locker room, an inspirational tone poem when the hard times hit. But mostly Riggins says it to himself. Mostly he mumbles “Texas Forever” alone on the tail of his pickup, then chugs what remains of his beer. “Texas Forever” is what keeps Tim ticking. It is his mantra.
In almost every movie about athletes in a small town, the protagonist’s goal is to escape from it. In All the Right Moves, Tom Cruise needs a football scholarship so he can avoid a lifetime in the steel mill. In Varsity Blues, James Van Der Beek needs a football scholarship so he can major in Women’s Studies at Brown. And not just athletes; in 8 Mile Eminem must hone his rap skills in order to escape the fate of his trailer park.
The towns presented in these films are blue collar, and the implication seems to be that working class life has its quiet charms but is ultimately unsatisfactory for anyone with “talent.” And though this hackneyed narrative might, on the surface, seem inspirational for the small town boy who wants to be the first in his family to go to college, or the barrio princess who dreams of being a NASA scientist, it also quietly affirms the status quo; it condescends by painting red-state America as “one-horse” and outdated, a place unsuitable for the chosen few.
But Tim Riggins has no particular interest in “getting out.” He tried college at San Antonio State and dropped out before he’d even arrived on campus. He attempted a number of professions that might have eased his slide into the white-collar world. Alas, he’s better off in cowboy boots.
What Riggins wants, in fact, is something far more complex than money or status, wine or women. What he wants is so complex, so poetically vague and out of reach, that he can’t even explain what it is in any way other than to stare at a sunset and say, “Texas Forever”—we understand that he both paradoxically already has what he wants (a Texas sunset, wind in his hair) and that it won’t last, because what he wants is only a feeling, and it’s fleeting. Which is not to say that Tim Riggins doesn’t also long for certain discrete solutions. He would like a supportive family, a loving lady, and enough money to keep him out of trouble, comfortable in the business of fixing cars and drinking beer. But as in any great Western, these material wants pale in comparison to Riggins’ true desire, which is the mystical and metaphorical place called Texas Forever, a place whose appeal lies partly in the unspoken profundity of its landscape—the wide roads and wider skies—and partly in the notions of liberty and freedom upon which, as the saying goes, this country was founded.