At the end of Eyes Wide Open, things were looking up for Matt Saracen. He’d forged a bond with Coach Taylor and, as the episode closed, took the field with renewed confidence. As Wind Sprints opens, harsh reality sets in. Saracen performs much better than expected, but the rest of the team struggles. The Panthers lose to the South Milbank Rattlers, and the town turns on them. For Saracen, this means his yard is vandalized and the Rally Girls suddenly ignore him.
The town is less pass-aggressive towards Eric. The boosters second-guess his strategy during the game. He and Julie are menaced by a burly ex-Panther at a hamburger restaurant. His team revolts against him in practice. His assistant coach, Mac McGill, seems to be spending a lot time with Buddy Garrity. Buddy is pressuring him to throw Saracen overboard a recruit (before someone else does) a talented quarterback, Ray “Voodoo” Tatum, recently relocated from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. On top of it all, Smash Williams takes his dissatisfaction public by giving his “off the record” opinion about Coach’s leadership during an on-camera interview.
If there’s a theme that ties this episode’s various plot threads together, its helplessness. Jason struggles against his broken spine and Lyla’s refusal to acknowledge the gravity of his injury. Matt has nobody to help him care for his grandmother. Riggins is so consumed with guilt that he’s ashamed to run into Jason’s mom, skips the pancake breakfast fundraiser benefiting his best friend, walks out on practice, and spends a lot of time drunk. By the end of the episode, we realize that Lyla’s relentless optimism is just a front for her own sense of helplessness.
For all the pressure he’s under, though, Eric is one of the few characters who can also do something about it.* He orders Mac to get the team together for a late night trip out to run sprints up a muddy hill in the rain. He orders Riggins to stop blaming himself for an accident he couldn't have prevented. At the next day’s practice his players seem disciplined, Saracen is hitting his receivers (the assistant coaches even seem to like him now), and Mac is deferential. Just as things are looking better Buddy walks on the field and introduces Voodoo Tatum as the team’s new quarterback, thus introducing a whole new set of problems.
Some other thoughts
- (*)Strictly speaking, the affair Tim and Lyla start in this episode is also a way to cope with their stress and helplessness; it’s just one that will compound problems, not resolve them.
- Unless I’m forgetting something, I think the reference to the Iraq War in the previous episode and the one to Hurricane Katrina in this one are the only overt references to the non-fiction world.
Trivia and historic moments
- Tami learns that the previous school counselor killed herself. Mayor Rodell thinks it was pills, but can’t be sure. I believe this information never comes up again.
- First references to Grandma Saracen having good and bad spells.
- Explosions in the Sky, “The Only Moment We Were Alone” (Replaced on the DVD)
- Explosions in the Sky, “Your Hand in Mine” (Replaced on the DVD)
- Explosions in the Sky, “The Sky Above, The Field Below” (Replaced on the DVD)
- Mogwai, “New Path to Helicon Part I”
Deleted Scene on DVD:
- Tami lamenting that her Saturday mornings with Eric are no longer for “sleeping late and making love and reading the paper” before Eric goes to take pointed questions from the community about his strategy against South Millbank. He gets in trouble when he points out it was a non-conference game, as if that makes it “okay to lose.”