There’s a climactic moment in the film Friday Night Lights, a Hollywood adaptation of a book that tracks the fortunes of a small high school football team in its pursuit of a Texas state championship, when the coach delivers a halftime speech about what it means to “be perfect.”
When I saw it for the first time, the scene brought tears to my eyes, in spite of the fact that it was essentially an advertisement for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes delivered by Billy Bob Thornton against the backdrop of a music video montage of the Lord’s Prayer. Coach Gaines explains, after years of screaming at his boys, that being perfect isn’t about not making mistakes. It’s about pouring your heart into everything you do so that you can look the people you love in the eye.
The message is simple enough if you’re on a high school sports team, but it gets complicated when you’re out there in the big wide world. Where do you pour your heart when you have to choose between your job, your family, and your dreams? How do you give everything you’ve got everyday without breaking the handle off the shovel?
The best coach I ever had delivered a different kind of message to me when I showed up at an out-of-season practice with headphones on, blaring tunes. He came over to where I was putting my shoes on and said, “You’ve got to be able to get up for it without the music.”
This year’s Best of C-VILLE issue is, as ever, a reader-sourced guide to the best of what’s around in our town, a small city with a long history of pursuing the good life. Because being the best can’t just be about winning a popularity contest, but doing your best sounds too much like a pee wee pep talk, we chose to illustrate what’s best about Charlottesville by highlighting a group of people who love what they do so much they can’t stop doing it.
The lesson I took from my coach wasn’t that I didn’t need the music; it was that the music had to be playing all the time inside me.