Our View: Light it Up


The City of Alexandria we know today is a far throw from its 1969 being, when the T.C. Williams Titan football team last played a night game under the spotlight on its home turf. It is a further throw still from the city and football team portrayed in Remember The Titans, a buoyant, inspirational depiction for sure, but one exaggerated for Hollywoods big screen.

Theres no harm in that fact. The true story is, at its base, inspirational, allowing ideal movie-making fodder to run its course. But the reason for any of the films embellishments, big or small, is the same reason it is widely considered one of the best sports movies of all time: Its a classic American tale, a slice of Americana.

So it is no mistake that one of the small inaccuracies in the film consists of a newly integrated team charging onto the gridiron, not under the hot sun of a Saturday matchup, but under the beaming, energizing voltage of Friday night lights. It is a small inaccuracy, but not a minor one.

The filmmakers chose this imagery because high school football on Friday nights is the norm across the country; its as positive a clich as baseball in the summer, and now it could return to Alexandrias only public high school hopefully.

Since violence stemming from nighttime games broke out in the late 1960s and such games were banned, an urban legend gained traction (and still exists today among many) that night-lit games would simply be too intense and induce similar outcomes. But 40 years later, the chief concern is disturbing the residents living near the field in a more urbanized, dense city. Its a legitimate quality of life issue for the adjacent neighborhood which, thankfully, seems to understand its also a quality of life issue for students, athletes and fans.

They seem open to at least a trial run under Friday night lights so that those invested in the school its athletes, students, teachers, faculty and alumni might finally have a chance to experience the intensity of nighttime football with a try-out under portable lights next season. This initiative should be supported not as a novelty, but as a genuine attempt at a more cohesive school and a city that can rally around it.

One might ask, Whats the difference? Football is football, no matter the day of the week, temperature or time of day. But the atmosphere, the intensity, the emotion is 100-fold on an otherwise dark stage with a spotlight. That goes for the players and the fans. Its the difference between a routine Sunday afternoon NFL game and a prime time Monday night matchup against your teams biggest rival. Why this is the case is intangible, but it is also moot.

Alexandria is certainly not the small town in Texas where football is life and the local teams quarterback maintains as much celebrity as its mayor. It is much too large and pluralistic for that to ever be the case. But if stakeholders can help revive an American staple at T.C., it will have made a play for that sugary charm and unity fit for the big screen, in a city rushing in the other direction.