Fictional Texas high school football has become real-life political football: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” is now part of the 2012 presidential election.
The phrase, made famous by coach Eric Taylor’s Dillon Panthers (and East Dillon Lions) on the beloved NBC/DirecTV show Friday Night Lights, was used by Mitt Romney as a rallying cry for last Wednesday’s debate in Denver, as this tweet and photo by the Republican presidential candidate’s son, Josh Romney, revealed:
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. twitter.com/joshromney/sta…
— Josh Romney (@joshromney) October 4, 2012
But that was not the end of it. Romney has since used the phrase at a campaign appearance, and his wife Ann put it in a fundraising e-mail.
That got Twitter tongues a-wagging, with MSNBC’s Alex Wagner and her NBC News colleague Garrett Haake both showing off their geeky passion for the show:
Just got campaign email from Ann Romney, subject line “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts.” Not sure Coach Taylor would approve. #FNL
— Alex Wagner (@alexwagner) October 7, 2012
@alexwagner Buddy Garrity = clearly a Republican
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettNBCNews) October 7, 2012
Austin-based Democratic political consultant Jason Stanford took exception (and has promised to write a column on the subject):
I know Coach’s wife. Ann Romney, you’re no Coach’s wife. MT “@zekejmiller: Ann Romney email subject line “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts.””
— Jason Stanford (@JasStanford) October 7, 2012
But others were delighted with the new association:
Mitt Romney quoted #FNL yesterday in a speech. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. I now know who I’m voting for.
— Tyler Pete Arnett (@tylerpetearnett) October 6, 2012
And a valid, ostensibly non-partisan point was made by Amy Friedenberger, a University of Pittsburgh student journalist:
Ann Romney sent an email with subject line “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts.” Those are sacred words. Politicians can’t use them. #FridayNightLights
— Amy Friedenberger (@AJFriedenberger) October 7, 2012
But if that’s the case, both campaigns are guilty:
Walked into @barackobama campaign office in Bethlehem last night & was thrilled to see #FNL wisdom on wall: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts” 🙂
— Molly Magro (@MollyMagro) October 6, 2012
In fact, as his supporters quickly noted, Obama crossed that rhetorical goal line first:
But Obama built that: bit.ly/RjpvGs RT @amy_hollyfield#Romney with the #FNL reference: “Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t Lose.”
— Sara Libby (@SaraLibby) October 5, 2012
The president had laid claim to the phrase five months ago, when he tweeted out this picture and caption:
Clear eyes, full hearts. twitter.com/BarackObama/st…
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 21, 2012
Among the people chiming in was actress Stacey Oristano, a.k.a Friday Night Lights‘ Mindy Riggins (nee Mindy Colette).
Hey Mitt Romney … Obama used it first and used it BETTER!!! CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN”T LOSE!!#FNL
— Stacey Oristano (@staceyoristano) October 7, 2012
(Perhaps the Romney “oppo” team should tar Obama for having the endorsement of a TV stripper.)
Of course, it almost goes without saying that the real place that inspired Friday Night Lights—i.e. Texas, and Odessa, and many other towns where high school football rules—is going to go for Romney.
And, in what appears to be an absolute coincidence, so is H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger. The author of the original non-fiction Friday Night Lights book published a column in The Daily Beast endorsing Romney Sunday night.
The Obama camp can take comfort in the fact that Bissinger played no role in creating the character of Eric Taylor, or the famous phrase.
Which means the TV show’s executive producers, Peter Berg (who has called Obama the warrior-in-chief) and Jason Katims, still might need to join the fray.
In the meantime, another FNL actress, Jurnee Smollett (who played East Dillon cheerleader-turned-equipment manager Jess Meriweather) took up for the Prez by arguing that Romney’s onscreen analogue is not Coach Taylor, but rather, his main nemesis from seasons three and four, wealthy booster and overbearing QB parent Joe McCoy.
Saw a photo w/ Mitt Romney & a clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose sign. Not cool. Romney is Joe McCoy! (no offense @dwmoffett)
— jurnee smollett (@jurneesmollett) October 7, 2012
And come to think of it, McCoy’s wife on the show was played by Texan and Tea Party activist Janine Turner, below right, looking rather Ann Romneyesque with daughter Juliette and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.