By now, the football as religion analogy is about as played out as steroid scandals in competitive cycling. But folks in Hoover, Alabama, take the phrase God on the Gridiron to a whole new level and MTV is there to document it in the new reality series “Two-A-Days,” named for the two grueling practices the boys go through each day.

Sure, the fans are absolute zealots in their support of the Buccaneers, who have won four state championships out of the last five years, and fervently evangelical about the team: As those who have family and friends in the area know, Hoover can simply do no wrong. But what’s so interesting is that “Two-A-Days” embraces the sports spirituality stereotype and takes it to an nth degree. In fact, in the premiere episode, the very first words out of Alex, a senior player and the episode’s narrator, are “At Hoover, football is like a religion, and the players on the team are celebrities.”

Sound familiar? Sure it does. We’ve seen it a million times in the movies and on tv. In fact, MTV has tackled the subject matter before, in 1999’s “Varsity Blues”–boys elevated to gods and the pressures they face from the parents, themselves and the fans. Interestly enough, that film also features a character on a humorous and heartfelt spiritual quest, trying to discern what religion is right for himself. He tries everything from Nation of Islam to Zen Buddhism to tying himself to a cross at the breakfast table.

But there’s nothing humorous in the very real religion found in “Two-A-Days.” The morning before a nationally televised game that will determine who the number one high school team in the nation is, the boys meet with team chaplain, Terry Slay.

“Everyone is born with a gameplan. The reason I stand here today, the reason I have the faith and the fortidtude, or whatever I do, is all because of one thing… it’s because I’ve got God’s gameplan in my life. And I want you as players to understand, to have something to hang on to and the Lord’s that person,” Slay says.

Niceties out of the way, Slay continues preaching about how the people from the opposing school expect Hoover to fail. “Don’t you dare embarrass this program by the way you play. Let them know they have come to the state of Alabama where football is king where football is football wehere we play like it’s supposed to be played… and make sure that if you play in this game that you can’t walk off, that you crawl off… give it all up.”

Pressure much?

“Two-A-Day” is engaging television. Sure, it’s full of teen drama (who’s so and so cheating with?) and shenanigans (padlocking a backpack to a chair), but these Hoover players endure two grueling practices a day in temperatures that often sore about 100 degrees, they withstand the verbal, some might say abusive, barbs of the coaches, and they put up with parents and community members’ critiques. So why do the boys do it? It seems to go beyond the instant celebrity status they achieve. The show is a compelling portrait of absolute devotion: Devotion to a game, devotion to the ideal of perfection.

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