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Honest, direct PR blitz scores points for 'Friday Night Lights'

Honest, direct PR blitz scores points for 'Friday Night Lights'

The battle is evenly divided. It's ugly and partisan. The rules of good conduct are generally ignored.

One side has been in the winner's seat for the last four years. The other expects to turn the tables this time.

Presidential election? Ha! This is something far more serious. This is Oklahoma versus Texas college football. As border wars go, it doesn't get any nastier. An OU supporter tells me, "It's like a street fight, except a street fight is broken up when it gets one-sided." (Translation: Two of OU's four consecutive wins have been by a combined 101 points.)

I had wandered down to "Texahoma" with the idea of doing a story on the release of Friday Night Lights and got sidetracked by a pigskin Hatfield and McCoys feud. Sure, both states are interested in the movie, which depicts the fervor of small-town Texas high- school football, but most everyone was primarily concerned with this business of "whippin' some Sooner/ Longhorn butt." I could devote an entire column to what it's like being in the Cotton Bowl for this grudge match - half the stands a sea of burnt orange, the other half crimson - but, like sex and whiskey, some things must be experienced firsthand to be appreciated.

What of the movie? Over the last few weeks, it's been widely screened for football coaches and select critics and the response has been a home run. Make that a touchdown. The publicity campaign is clearly aimed at hard-core football fans - none of that "It's not really about field hockey...it's about a man coming to terms with himself" crapThe battle is evenly divided. It's ugly and partisan. The rules of good conduct are generally ignored. that usually accompanies sports-themed flicks. In terms of marketing, this is an all-out blitz - and an honest one. If you don't like football, the studio is not acting as if the film is something different.

But the challenge is luring gridiron junkies away from real games. (The baseball-themed Mr. 3000 had difficulty prying hardball buffs from televised pennant-race games in September. ) I can guarantee OU-Texas legions won't be at the matinee on Saturday, but the studio is hoping they and thousands of other fans streaming from stadiums across the country will then head to the theater that evening for more football, of the cinematic kind.

Maybe. Trouble is, many folks start tailgating in the morning and are tanked by game's end. Let's hope they wait until Sunday to see the film, or the only "Friday Night Lights" they'll see will be atop a police car.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer.

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