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The Friday Night Lights election: Why politicians love "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose."

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Friday Night Lights quote
Friday Night Lights' famous slogan has been used by both campaigns. Grantland.com
Mitt Romney, clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, Friday Night Lights, October 2012
Is that Mitt Romney or Coach Eric Taylor? From the presidential candidate's Facebook page. Mitt Romney/Facebook
Friday Night Lights quote
Mitt Romney, clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, Friday Night Lights, October 2012

The small media circus that erupted when "lifelong liberal" Buzz Bissinger declared his support of Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate was more than a little confusing.

Bissinger is known for writing the ultimate opus to Texas high school football, Friday Night Lights, and he picked a big platform — web behemoth The Daily Beast — for his endorsement. But a moderately famous writer coming out as a Republican voter doesn't usually make the news cycle.

 Romney isn't the only one though — according to the campaign's Instagram feed, the Dillon Panthers have been inspiring the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago since April. 

Are Republicans so desperate for some celebrity glow that even a D-lister like Bissinger counts? Whatever his merits as a writer, this is a grown man prone to Twitter meltdowns (he would have another right after his Romney column ran) who unironically referred to someone recently as a "dickasaurus douchejuciest jealous prick." Repubs: He's all yours.

It wasn't until Romney starting using "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!", the heartfelt catchphrase from the critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights television show, that the fuss over Bissinger began to make sense. Romney isn't the only one though — according to the campaign's Instagram feed, the Dillon Panthers have been inspiring the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago since April.

Critics posted theories on whether Friday Night Lights has conservative or liberal values and how the fictional characters would vote. As Time's James Poniewozik wrote,

Now, I can only guess what, if anything, Friday Night Lights and its slogan really mean to either candidate — maybe nothing more than, “Football, something inspirational, blah blah blah, people seem to like that sort of thing.” But I do know what it means to me: a love letter to American character and community so powerful that I’m surprised today’s campaigns don’t use it all the time.

It's true that Friday Night Lights captures everything both parties want to portray in this election. Who wouldn't want to embody the tough yet supportive Coach Taylor, a guy who turns boys into men, instills the value of both hard work and teamwork, and ignores the self-interested bullshit that comes along with his position? Plus he gives a hell of a pep talk.

Days later FNL series creator Peter Berg wrote Romney a harsh cease-and-desist letter accusing him of plagiarizing the slogan — which was written by Berg, not Bissinger.

But it's not just the appeal of FNL's realistic portrayal of American life that the campaigns want — after all, if voters cared about things like that, they would have actually watched the show.

"Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose," isn't just an imagined endorsement from Coach Taylor himself. The slogan is brilliant in how it takes a dirty, partisan arena — in this case, high school football — and gives it a righteous sense of purpose.

No wonder politicians love it.

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