Real “Friday Night Lights” Field Is A Toxic Mess

You know the story: high school football in Texas isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. From “Friday Night Lights” to “Varsity Blues,” you’ve had the fact that people in Texas treat high school football as a matter of life and death drilled into your head time and again so much that it’s become a cliche.

New Friday Night Lights poster

But now there’s a new twist to the story. The ASSOCIATED PRESS has tested samples from the artificial turf at two stadiums in Texas - including Ratliff Stadium, home of the Permian Panthers from the original “Friday Night Lights” book - and found levels of lead from 10 to 14 times higher than the EPA standard. So high school football might actually be becoming a life and death issue in Texas, as in “the fields are slowly killing the players.”

Before herds of lawyers start descending on Texas like vultures arriving at a fresh carcass, it’s worth noting that those levels were found at the “root level” - the secondary layer of nylon underneath the main turf - and tests did not show high levels of lead in the top level (although one stadium had twice the standard level in drinking water in the runoff from the field, which makes you wonder who is drinking water coming from a football field, and just how good can that taste?)

So after the lead scientist who did the testing concluded that the lead levels could be a health risk, the school districts impacting are moving quickly and decisively…to do nothing right now but monitor the situation:

Quentin Burnett, an associate superintendent in the Birdville school district, said he and other officials are now attempting to learn whether the turf, installed five years ago, can still be safely used.

“We don’t have the $300,000 or $400,000 it would take to replace it any more than anybody else does,” he said. “But we’re not going to have something that’s unsafe for our students.”

That’s great. Meanwhile, while you’re doing more studies, a whole generation of your players could potentially be getting so more lead into their system than a No. 2 pencil. I take back what I said earlier - release the lawyers.