The Romney Campaign's Got Some 'Friday Night Lights' Swag For Peter Berg

FILE - This 2006 photo, provided by NBC Universal, shows actors Connie Britton, standing center left, as Tami Taylor, Kyle Ch
FILE - This 2006 photo, provided by NBC Universal, shows actors Connie Britton, standing center left, as Tami Taylor, Kyle Chandler, foreground, as Eric Taylor in the NBC series "Friday Night Lights." Mitt Romney is giving a campaign-trail twist to an inspirational slogan from the TV series "Friday Night Lights" as he rides an upswing in polls after last week’s debate. The coach of the football team at fictional West Dillon High School in rural Texas would build up the Panthers by saying, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!" “Friday Night Lights” aired on NBC and DirectTV over five years, ending last year, and remains a Romney favorite. (AP Photo/NBC, Bill Records)

Somewhere along the way, the Romney campaign decided to employ a pop-cultural reference that suggests that it does, in fact, exist in the modern era of popular entertainments, and is not entirely a throwback to the early comedies of television's infancy. I am speaking, of course, of "Friday Night Lights," the little-watched but much-acclaimed NBC series about big-time high school football in small-town Texas, which was spun off from the popular book and feature film of the same name.

And while it's not entirely clear if Romney himself is a devotee of the series, someone on his campaign team is, and whoever that person is, he or she knows when they've got a good, folksy bit of sloganeering going on. Out on the stump, Romney has appropriated the show's Coach Taylor's famous locker room pep-talk kicker, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," as a rallying call at campaign appearances across the nation.

The Romney campaign's use of this line has famously divided the creative minds behind the television series. Peter Berg, who wrote and directed the film and the television series, took umbrage at the campaign's appropriation, and in a letter to the campaign, he wrote: "Your politics and campaign are clearly not aligned with the themes we portrayed in our series." Berg went on the accuse the Romney campaign of "plagiarism," raising the possibility that Berg does not know what the word "plagiarism" means. (People are free to speak their favorite lines from television shows aloud, in front of people, as it turns out.)

Still, Berg's insistence that the Romney campaign "come up with your own campaign slogan" has clearly fallen on deaf ears. And now, Romney supporters can replace their disgraced "LIVESTRONG" bracelets with other rubber armwear inscribed with their own version: "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, America Can't Lose." (By coincidence, repeating this phrase is also our entire strategy in Afghanistan, now and forever.)

On the other hand, Buzz Bissinger -- the author of the original book from which all this filmic and televised Texas football glory sprung -- has, in recent days, come out as one of the former Massachusetts governor's most fiery supporters. Bissinger became a Romney ally as a result of President Barack Obama's desultory debate performance in Denver. He will vote for Romney in spite of the fact that he supports both Obamacare and a stronger financial regulatory reform policy than the one offered by the Dodd-Frank bill. (Yes, I realize that this does not, strictly speaking, make a lick of sense, but this is how people vote in America.)

I am, of course, only too happy that a big political campaign is bringing some wanted attention to a series that deserved more viewers. (Except for maybe that second season with the whole Landry-Tyra plot arc, and Julie Taylor dumping Matt Saracen for a lifeguard nicknamed "the Swede" -- a series of events that I assure you has never taken place in Texas.) But I think we can all agree it's a little weird, considering the show, as a whole, was mainly concerned with the quiet triumph of the "47 percent-types" of the Dillon, Texas community. And Romney, himself, is really no Coach Taylor. Can you imagine him being married to Tami Taylor, the anti-Michelle Rhee?

This is not to say that Romney doesn't fit into the milieu of Texas football. Indeed, he'd likely be quite successful there, as a "Wade Aikman" type who runs his team based on data-driven analysis of his players strengths and weaknesses. He definitely would have started J.D. McCoy over Matt Saracen, state championship be damned, and his team may well have done just fine. (Though McCoy's story, which is said to have been loosely based on the real-world example of Todd Marinovich, is one that speaks of the perils of a hardnosed, data-driven approach to football.) But that's kind of not the point of the show, where "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose" is not a PowerPoint slide, and belongs as much to the vanquished as it does to the victors.

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