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"Football is a way of life."
Jonathon 'Mox' Moxon
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Varsity Blues, a 1999 comedy-drama directed by Brian Robbins, is one of the great Cliché Storms of the 1990s. It is a sports story that centers around high school football in the great state of Texas.

The film revolves around the fictional town of West Canaan, Texas; its high school football team, the Coyotes; and the team's head coach, Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight). Kilmer has won more than 20 district championships and two state championships; as such, the stadium is named after him, and a giant bronze statue of Kilmer has been erected in the end zone in his honor. However, the questionable lengths he goes to to win these championships begin to surface after his star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) goes down with a season-ending injury, prompting a conflict between Kilmer and the team's academically-minded backup quarterback, Jonathan "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek).

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This film contains examples of:

  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Averted by Mox, who actually turns down a cheerleader because he prefers his girlfriend.
  • Badass Bookworm: Mox, who can make a ref across the field groan in pain from receiving a spiral thrown by him while sitting... As he reads Slaughterhouse-Five. He also gets a full academic scholarship to Brown University just before beating the best team in the conference.
  • Big Man on Campus: Who you are if you're the quarterback at West Caanan High School.
  • Big Eater: Billy Bob is introduced eating a sandwich he keeps dunking in a jar of peanut butter while drinking directly from a bottle of pancake syrup.
  • Big Fun: Billy Bob is very much a life of the party type guy.
  • Big Game: The one where they have to win to clench Bud Kilmer's 23rd District Championship.
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  • Blackmail: What you do to ensure your players listen to you.
  • The Cheerleader: Darcy Sears. She plays it straight for most of the movie. Then, after the whipped cream bikini scene, she breaks down and admits that she just wants to get out of West Canaan and can't see any other way to do it other than attach herself to the star quarterback.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: There are multiple examples, however a conversation between Mox and his girlfriend underlines his conflict.
    Jules: Then quit!
    Mox: I can't.
    Jules: Then play.
    Mox: You don't understand...
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The players, toward the police and later Kilmer as his lack of integrity comes to the surface.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover implies Tweeder to be isolated in a brooding world of teen angst while the rest of the cast obliviously parties. Actually, Tweeder is the carefree party monster while the others struggle in various ways.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Hook and Ladder play that was practiced earlier in the film is used to win the Big Game.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mox's brother Kyle seems to adopt and practice a different religious faith in every scene he's in. Eventually taken Up to Eleven when Kyle forms his own cult!
  • Date Rape/Black Comedy Rape: Charlie Tweeder talks to Mox about how girls are panty-droppers, after you give them some painkillers and alcohol. Subverted by Mox who, rather than laughing about it, asks him if he'll like prison.
    Mox: Tweeder, do you think you'll enjoy prison?
    Tweeder: I don't know...what?
  • Dumb Muscle: His name is Billy Bob.
  • Down to the Last Play: And the play they run is the trick play that Killmer yelled at Mox over earlier in the game.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Coach Kilmer, who seems to pick scapegoats and then really lay into them but is generally rough and unforgiving to all his players.
  • Easy Evangelism: Kyle Moxon, dubbed "very spiritual" by his mother, goes from strapping himself to a cross to die for mankind's sins to praying into a fire dressed in Shinto clothing to stereotypical Nation of Islam garb and behavior to starting his own cult.
  • Everytown, America: West Canaan, Texas is a fictional but archetypal small country town.
  • Fan Disservice: Billy Bob, for comedy, twice. Once interrupting a makeout session between Lance and Darcy to throw up in a dryer, and another time getting up on the stage at the strip club, stripping to his boxers and dancing with the stripper.
  • Fanservice Extra: A few of them, including a visit to the strip club.
  • Girl Next Door: Mox's girlfriend Julie.
  • Groin Attack: "...And say, 'I'm stupid and I'm about to get hit in the nuts.'"
  • Hangover Sensitivity: When the boys leave the strip club following a night of partying. The hangover lasts into the game that night.
  • Heel Realization: It's ambiguous since there's no dialogue in the scene. After being driven away by the team, Coach Killmer ends up in his office looking at his old trophies, and catches his reflection in one of them. All we know is he never coached in West Canaan again, and didn't follow up on his threats to mess up Mox's scholarship.
  • Hot Teacher: Taken to the extreme with Miss Davis, especially considering it's a small town. Bonus points for her dancing to Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher". Double bonus because she's the sex ed teacher.
  • How Many Fingers?: The trainer uses this to help diagnose Billy Bob.
    Mox: No-no-no, it's Billy Bob. It's gotta be true or false. Billy Bob! The man is holding up some fingers, true or false?
    Billy Bob: ...true?
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Miss Davis asked for other terms for the male erection... Mox obliges.
    Mox: The male erection? Pitchin' a tent, sportin' a wood, the icicle is formed, the march is on... stiff, stiffie, Mr. Mortis, rigor mortis has set in... flesh rocket, Jack's magic beanstalk, tall Tommy, mushroom on a stick, Mr. Mushroomhead, purple-headed yogurt slinger...
  • I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Culminating in this.
    Mox: Oh, and Pedro.
    Ms. Davis: ...Pedro?
  • Interrupted Suicide: Mox tracks Billy Bob at the field, who is drinking and shooting his old trophies before presumably shooting himself; Mox talks him down.
  • It's All About Me: Kilmer's attitude regarding the football program, since he's fully willing to sacrifice the health of High School athletes to further his personal glory as a winning coach.
  • Jacob Marley Warning: When Kilmer tries convincing Wendell to take painkillers so the latter can play through injury during the final game, Lance arrives in the locker room on his crutches telling Wendell not to do it because he'll wind up just like Lance.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: During one game, Mox sits on the bench reading a book instead of watching the game. Kilmer is understandably pissed off about this since Mox is supposed to be paying attention and could possibly have to go into the game if Lance gets injured (which happens the next game).
  • Losing Is Worse Than Death: Of course it's easier since it's not his well-being, but that of his players at risk. Unfortunately, this is a bit of Truth in Television with some coaches in high school sports, so long as they treat it as Serious Business. And in Texas, football is as serious as baseball in New York, hockey is for Canada or soccer for Brazil.
    Coach Kilmer: The only pain that matters is the pain you inflict!
    • Notably, this mentality is what kicks off the plot, as Coach Kilmer's, and by extension the town's, fixation on this trope result in his talking injured high-school athletes into taking painkillers and avoiding the hospital so they can still play, with the doctors treating Lance absolutely horrified at the amount of scar tissue they find in his knee, and turning what would be a season-ending injury into a career-ending one.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Most notably in the blocked punt scene. Billy Bob asks to be put in on defense and blocks two guys at once, and Tweeder (who's already playing defense, even though he's a wide receiver) blocks the punt. There's also a scene where Kilmer starts to promoted Tweeder to quarterback. Again, Tweeder is the star wide receiver. The only player not one of the main characters to be seen doing anything is a receiver named Gonzales catching a single pass during the last game.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Mox actually tries to psyche himself up to hook up with Darcy by telling himself that there's no reason why he shouldn't and anyone else would. He stays faithful to Julie instead.
  • Meaningful Name: Johnathan "Mox" Moxon as in "moxie".
  • Miracle Rally: With the Coyotes down 17-7 and their halfback injured, Lance puts together an offensive scheme with 5 wide receivers. They score, block a punt, and win on a trick play.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Plenty of the football players show off their muscles. Tweeder walks naked in the street wearing just a cowboy hat.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Darcy, especially when she pulls out the whipped cream. She's played by Ali Larter, after all.
  • My Greatest Failure: Billy Bob never stops beating himself up for Lance's injury, even though it wasn't his fault that Coach Kilmer made him play while concussed and he passed out.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Averted. Lance is perfectly fine with Mox dating his younger sister.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The stolen patrol car is full of this trope.
  • The '90s: The music, clothing, and hair fully cement this film in the 90's. Right down to Mox's hemp and clay bead necklace.
  • Only Sane Man: Wendell thinks it's not a good idea for the guys to get drunk the night before their game. He winds up being right as they wind up losing partly due to their hangovers impacting their performance.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Billy Bob and Tweeder, to name a couple.
  • Our Founder: There is a bronzed statue of Coach Kilmer, for whom the high school stadium is also named.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Sam Moxon is this to a T. His son just received an acceptance letter to an Ivy League college, with a full academic scholarship nonetheless, but Sam just wants to talk about the upcoming football game. The sad thing is that despite Sam's obsession with the Coyotes and idolization of Kilmer, Kilmer considers Sam to be a "no-talent pussy" whose only redeeming quality as a player was that he never questioned Kilmer's orders.
  • Parental Substitute: Billy Bob: [crying] "Man, Coach loved me like a son! Treated me like one, too."
  • Plot Hole: So if Moxon never played another game of football after winning the District Final, whatever became of the Coyotes going on to the State Finals?
    • It's possible they could've withdrawn from the state tournament. Or maybe they did go on and Johnny sat out.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Kilmer sees Wendell and the other black players as nothing more than workhorses to help the team drive the ball downfield before giving the scoring opportunities white players. Wendell's mom has to do his college recruiting because Kilmer won't go out of his way to help the black players get noticed by scouts.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: "Put me in there! We'll block it."
  • The Quarterback: Lance, then more especially Mox, with his talking Billy down, rousing speech, intelligence and kindness.
  • Reality Ensues: Coach Kilmer's obsession with winning runs so deep that he'll talk his injured stars into taking painkillers and ignoring injuries - which winds up costing Lance his scholarship to college as his knee was so shredded that by the time the doctors got to it, a season-ending injury became a career-ending one.
    • In particular, Billy-Bob's concussion has become much Harsher in Hindsight in the decades since this movie premiered.
  • The Rival: Lance and Mox are friends, but their respective fathers were rivals back in the day and keep trying to relive their rivalry through their kids.
  • Rousing Speech: Done a couple of times by Kilmer and then by Mox at halftime of the final game after the team overthrows Kilmer.
  • Save Our Team: Inverted; it's only when the team kicks their coach to the curb that they achieve true success.
  • Scary Black Man: The kid who puts the hit on Lance Harbor that injures him looks to be about 6 foot 3 and is ripped to the gills - he looks like an NFL player.
  • Serious Business: Football in West Caanan, Texas - see Losing Is Worse Than Death.
  • Small Town Boredom: The reason Darcy Sears sticks with the star players.
  • STD Immunity: Averted, albeit indirectly, when Tweeder looks down his own pants and asks aloud, "...The fuck is that?!"
  • Team Pet: Billy Bob's pet pig, Bacon. Billy Bob may think that Bacon is a dog.
  • Teenage Wasteland: If you're a Coyote in West Canaan (especially a starter), don't expect the law to apply to you. You are a part of a different society that has its own laws.
  • Token Minority: Wendell Brown. He is also the only one of the main cast to play college football on scholarship.
  • Unusual Euphemism: See the Hurricane of Euphemisms.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The town loves the coach because he wins championships, but also because they're not aware of the lengths to which he goes to do it.
  • Wild Teen Party: Making out, vomiting and stealing a police car.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: The stripper dancing to "Hot for Teacher"... turns out to be the sex-ed teacher Miss Davis.
  • You Have Failed Me: Coach Kilmer blames Billy Bob for Lance's injury, since Billy Bob fell over and missed his block.

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