There was a time when I believed that All American would be cancelled by The CW after a prolonged silence about its status — and also the history of one-season shows that are important being cut too soon. But thanks to its successful run on Netflix, All American has lived to see another season. And a show that’s about so much more than football gets to continue to showcase important lessons and hard truths.
But perhaps my favorite thing about All American — and, no, it’s not the football, although I love that, too — is how almost immediately it established the importance of family. Not only the importance of family, but the fact that families come in all shapes, sizes, colors and where you least expect them.
Spencer James is someone that values family above all else. It’s a big reason why he plays football — in hopes of one day giving him mom and brother a better life. It’s why he ultimately agrees to, thanks to his mom, live with strangers essentially to get an opportunity to play for a school that will not only get him recognized on the football field but also enhance his education, which is something that is valued in his family.
Throughout the first season of All American, we saw the struggle as Spencer juggled life in Crenshaw, with his mom and brother, and life in Beverly Hills, with the Baker family. While there was never any doubt as to the importance of his blood family — or how Spencer loved them — it was interesting to watch how Spencer grew to be a part of the Baker family.
Proximity is something that will force you to deal with each other, which is what Spencer learned when being a part of the Baker family. Spencer spent weekdays in Beverly, which meant that he experienced a lot with Coach Baker and his wife, as well as their children Jordan and Olivia.
Now, things weren’t always sunshine and rainbows, but then again life isn’t perfect. Relationships aren’t perfect. Families aren’t perfect. There are times when you’re laughing and having a good time like a perfectly crafted movie montage, and then there are times when you’re going at each other in a fit of rage.
But experiences, both good and bad, ultimately bond you together, which is what happened with Spencer and the Bakers.
When you hear the word family, what comes to mind? Is it the people you share blood with? Is it the people that you’re closest with? Is it more than one group of people that you’re proud to call family?
In the season 2 premiere, Spencer was struggling between choosing to stay at Beverly or return to Crenshaw, where his birth father had taken a job as head coach of their football team. For Spencer, it wasn’t even a decision. He chose his dad. You know, the dad that left his mom to raise him and his brother. His dad, who chose to leave Spencer. His dad, who decided to come running back when he saw Spencer’s success.
Which obviously made the audience feel angry at this absentee father suddenly rolling back in town and threatening to upend Spencer’s life and the relationship with his found family.
And it’s not just the Bakers that have become his family. It’s also his teammates, people that he started off hating and has grown to love thanks to shared experiences that will bond them forever. So as he’s dealing with the decision to stay in Beverly or return to Crenshaw to play for the man he calls “father,” even though he hasn’t been in his life, it’s rightfully so a difficult decision.
Ultimately, Spencer didn’t make a decision yet. Not that we expected him to this early in the season, where this is a storyline that’s sure to continue. But the fact that Spencer postponed the decision speaks volume. He feels the pain of possibly losing his found family as a result of wanting to please his birth father.
For Spencer, his journey might’ve started about football. But his life has become so much more as he’s discovered that two families are better than one.