Sunday, October 03, 2010



By Kevin Anthony Stoda, America viewed from Taiwan TV

I’m watching the movie, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, a 2004 film based on H.G. Bissinger’s book—and set primarily in the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas in the 1980s. At this moment, I’m situated a world away from Weekend Football American-Style—but in Taiwan movie channels this distance does not matter.

I’m sure cultures of peoples around the globe are busy dissecting Americana via cinema and such a film is great for doing just that. By watching, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, the avid viewers from around the planet are observing the priorities and ideals displayed in this piece of Americana directed by Peter Berg and Josh Pate.

Watching so many films and learning how many American males suffer through years of (1) community pressures, (2) coach’s diatribes, and (3) peer pressures over 4 years of High School football. This will enable any viewer to comprehend an important line from Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary, Waiting for Superman.

That line from Guggenheim’s narrator in the documentary is as follows (and does concern American education over the past 4 to 7 decades): “Among thirty developed countries, [the USA schools] we rank twenty-fifth in math and twenty-first in science. In almost every category, we’ve fallen behind, except one. Kids from the USA rank number one in confidence.

Striving to learn confidence and struggling against opposition in America—i.e. where most of our lives we are confronted by unfair truths these days—is normal in the USA and in almost any corner of the planet. This is why the film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE resonated so well with the average American viewer—although set in India.

Struggling against-society and the-givens-in-society are certainly par for the course for America’s youth these days—i.e. after 40 years of a badly run economy while driving the price of American tertiary education out of reach of many American families. Huge debt is the only way to pay for it. (One of the students’ typical fees is for health insurance, by the way.)

Likewise, the job market in America is currently a very dismal place for American youth—especially for those who fail to gain a diploma or who exit school illiterate despite great football skills. (This situation of illiteracy by student athletes in American high schools and colleges may have improved in recent years, but I am not too sure.)


Decades ago, like tens of millions of American boys, I had my first taste of high school football-wars, football training, and battle-in-the-field-camaraderie under Friday Night Lights, too. I also had more than a few injuries in practice–and out under the FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS back in my late- 1970 high school days.

My reoccurring football injuries were in my ankles. I twisted one ankle badly my junior year and came back too soon under pressure of one of my football coaches—who stated categorically to me, “A doctor would not say, ‘It’s up to you when to come back.—AND SIMPLY MEAN IT. ’”

That is, that high school coach was telling me: If the doctor gives me—at the time only a 16 YEAR OLD–the option to come back when I am ready, this message is supposed to be translated, “Physically, you are ready—it is up to you mentally to come back from an injury.”

I fell for that mind-game–as any gullible 16-year-old would–,and came out in for practice that night.

Within a week, while favoring that one ankle, I went ahead and hurt the other ankle very badly, too. That is why I missed the first game of my senior year because of the other ankle.

However, soon I began to have lifelong problems with both my ankles—twisting them both regularly playing basketball, tennis—even just jogging. Finally, during my first and only season as a college tennis player, I was forced to give up that sport forever—i.e. due to my repeating ankle injuries.—10-Benefits-to-Having-a-Life-Long-Passion&id=4330263

Tennis, by the way, was supposed to be one of those lifelong sports to keep me healthy in my later years.

I didn’t get surgery in 1981 on my ankles because at that time the expected recovery rate from such a surgery was only about 70 to 80 %–not good enough odds for me to take a risk on surgery as a poor college student—whose new private (student) insurance was not even going to cover most of the medical costs. (I was no longer covered by my parent’s insurance and pre-existing conditions were threatening to run up my medical bill.)


In short, by the 1980s most former student football athletes of my era were like me—i.e. they were already getting screwed by the health care industry (unless they were fortunate to be still under parent’s insurance.) I share this fact of lifelong injuries stemming from high school sports because in any film on the American high school football experience that I have ever seen, there are injuries—just like in any real American sports season.

Because of bad health care coverage in America (and due to FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL LIGHTS), at the age of 19, I was forced to choose to give up regularly playing tennis for the rest of my life because of the repetitive ankle injuries. (Admittedly, I was never that great a singles player at tennis but on doubles I was pretty good some days.)

Without good universal medical care, American youth and victims of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS are going to continue to suffer. I am still skeptical of the American Health Care plan of 2010 to cover properly post-dated sports injuries. What about you?

If you are skeptical about the U.S. governments commit you and your family to changing the status quo in America. Make sure that the worst Congressmen and Senators get kicked out–and force Congress to put 100% -across the board health care coverage for all Americans on the ground and running in 2011.

Make America a forward thinking country and not retrospective—sighing over missed opportunities (or nostalgically over little victories) on the gridiron decades later.



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