Depending on your cable provider, Friday Night Lights either was, or currently is, the best sports related television show that has ever aired. During its five season run, it touched on just about every sport related dramatic scenario possible. You followed the characters of Dillon through impossible lows and improbable highs. Late in season two, and a little into season three, enigmatic, and often too self involved, star Smash Williams suffers a fall from grace due to injury and believes his playing days are over and his college prospects are gone. That is, until Coach Taylor decides he won’t let that happen. He reigns in the young man’s emotions and sets him on a path to humility and redemption. The payoff comes almost a full season later, when in passing you hear the TV on in the background and you hear the announcer doing the play-by-play of Smash Williams making a big run during a college game. The perseverance of Coach Taylor had paid off and the young man was on a positive track.
Tonight, ESPN treated us to a short preview of Coach Gruden taking Terrelle Pryor under his wing and putting him through his quarterback camp. The full episode will air next Thursday, June 30th. It would be very easy to write this off as “made for TV” and nothing but a publicity stunt. To Pryor’s credit, the brief portion shown tonight showed someone that may be growing more comfortable in his skin and may possess the capacity for humility. To be honest, I’m on the fence. As a somewhat jilted Buckeye fan it’s hard for me to look at Pryor and see any redeeming qualities. However, having watched the QB camps that Gruden has done in the past year for draft picks it’s difficult not to accept that he actually takes these sessions seriously. As much of a kiss ass that he is during Monday Night Football broadcasts he appears to still have the hardnosed coach in him when it comes to sitting down with players.
Now, obviously the exact circumstances for the real life Pryor are different than those of the fictional Smash. But the overall scope is roughly the same. Star players that have suffered a fall from grace and both have questions as to whether or not they can find success at the next level. In the fictional world of Dillon, Texas the redemption of Smash seemingly took weeks if not months of hard work and Coach Taylor riding him not to quit. The hour special that will air next week will show highlights and insight of work that has only gone on for one or two weeks at best. So the timetables are different as well. But in the sports news cycle where opinions and narrative change by the hour maybe just a few weeks of time with Coach Gruden is what Pryor needs to set him on the right path. I don’t know if real life can imitate art in this situation but it will be fun to watch.
As Buckeye fans across the country we do have to ask ourselves what we’re hoping for. Do we want to see the young man struggle and never fully have success, or do we want to see him find redemption. Are we ready to see a young man that, just as recently as 10 months ago, we cheered as if he was family and more recently, let us down as only family can, grow up in front of us and achieve success? Is it all too much too soon? Personally I don’t know what to think yet, I’m doing my best to reserve judgment and form my final opinion once all the cards are on the table. But I feel like we’re stuck in the middle of a game of Texas Hold’em and we haven’t even seen the turn yet.