To buy the book, click here. I took this route once before, at a different time in my life. I was much younger then, in my 30s, when you can still act impulsively and not suffer permanently for it. There is a familiar comfort in the landscape: the sprawl of the Dallas Metroplex, like oozing oil; the metallic spires of the refineries in Beaumont and Houston; the Hill Country, dressed in lace and wildflowers; the flatlands of West Texas, where you step off into eternity and wonder if you will ever make it back. A thousand miles through Texas with a thousand memories.
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Buy Study Guide The story begins in the middle of August , just before the football season begins. Inside the field house is a picture of each player who had made All-State during the last 29 years. They hang immortalized in a picture frame, a reminder of what glory looks like. The field house is also draped in Permian white and black with various nostalgic items carefully placed. To the people of Odessa, this field house holds more significance than any museum or cultural landmark.
They had lofty dreams of turning Odessa into a destination town complete with electric trolley cars. Unfortunately the land was useless to farm and risky to even raise livestock. Consequently Odessa became an oil town subject to the boom and bust periods of the international energy economy. Whatever Odessa lacks in wealth or amenities, it always has high school football. Expectations were always high that the team would make the state championship. Coach Gaines realizes what the town expects of him and his team, but he also knows that nothing is a sure thing in the crazy world of American high school football.
People come to this event like their civic duty of the utmost importance. Bissinger describes the atmosphere as part pep rally and part hero-worship of young gladiators.
Bissinger is quick to add that there is a tradeoff for these young athletes. In exchange for broken bones and pulled tendons, they are treated like royalty in the school. The cheerleading squad, the Pepettes, hover over the players like their personal geisha girls. Boobie Miles is introduced as the player who will take this team all the way to the state finals while his uncle L. V looks over the spectacle gushing with pride. Boobie is a black player from the poor side of Odessa. Being a football player who seemingly has it all, he has transcended many of the racial roadblocks that plague less gifted young Negro mortals.
American colleges and universities had been courting Boobie since his junior year, despite the fact that the boy reads at a grade five level. As always Boobie is having a spectacular game except this time something happens. As usual Boobie is flying across the field, seemingly unstoppable. Knew that Boobie was one significant injury away from becoming damaged merchandise and cast aside like a used up battery. V dreamed of playing football but the closest he would ever get to the Friday Night Lights would be to live vicariously through his nephew some twenty-five years later.
Had taken Boobie in from being bounced around foster homes. When desegregation became law, Boobie attended high school and his football majesty seemed almost foreordained.
Boobie was classified as learning disabled. This allowed Boobie to escape the regular classes and College Board exams. It, however, meant that he would have to wait a year after high school to improve his academics before going to college. Although Mike was going to play Permian football instead of baseball, the virtues he possessed would remain the same. Joe Bill argued that their father would have wanted him to stay and play Permian football, his father would have wanted him to go to college.
Mike would stay on in Odessa, living with his sick mother in an old dilapidated house. We are next introduced to Don Billingsley , the starting tailback for Permian. On this day Don scores a touchdown and his father, Charlie Billingsley , looks on in admiration.
Charlie had been a legend in Permian football twenty years prior to watching his son skirting across the field in black and white. Charlie had worn the black and white of Permian 20 years before this point: he was as a star, a legend. He was a tough kid who used to fight a lot but his football skill kept him out of any major trouble. Charlie had high hopes even after high school football. At university Charlie was not worshiped, he was easily expendable if he did not perform.
Despondent at his lack of status, he transferred to a small College in Oklahoma. A few drunken bar-fights later, Charlie dropped out of college and went into the tavern business.
Don would come to live with him in order to play for Permian. After a series of mistakes on the field, Chris Comer replaces Don. Chris happens to be black and Don reverts to racist rants that seem to come so easy to many whites in Odessa. Many whites believe that there are two versions of black people: hard-working blacks who are thought of as white, and dependent, needy, thieving blacks.
Blacks are treated as inferior to whites, with Hispanics inhabiting that dubious space in between. Lanita Akins is one of the few whites that find racism offensive regardless of how it is justified. She points to the railroad tracks that run through the center of town. Although segregation in America officially ended in , apparently Odessa never got that memo. Anyone visiting Odessa from more populated centers might think that they were caught in a time warp.
Black parents from the non-white school of Ector were against desegregation if it meant the closing of their school. Permian parents were worried that desegregation would destroy their football team, their last bastion of white glory. Desegregation would transfer some fabulous black athletes to Permian. The racial rhetoric waned and finally, in , Odessa adhered to a federal law that was instituted eighteen years earlier.
Bissinger turns his attention to Ivory Christian. Ivory is ambivalent about football. For Ivory, the game is a curious paradox of loathing the game with being obsessed with it. Ivory had grown up in the Southside where Permian Mojo was waved in front of the black population like some exclusive white fraternity. He is also furious when he is temporarily relieved of his position because of lack of enthusiasm.
Still football is in his blood and no pre-game preparation is complete without the sound of Ivory vomiting somewhere in the locker room.
The game against Marshall is a good example of the pressure that coach Gaines is under. After a silly mistake by the player Johnny Celey, Gaines uncharacteristically screams at Johnny. This is an example of the unrelenting pressure placed on coach Gaines to win at any cost.
The loss provides enough fodder for the town sling at coach Gaines. The character of Don Billingsley is explored further. Don breezes through his classes, paying little attention to the lessons. Virtually every girl at Permian dreams of being a Pepette. These are girls who exclusively devote themselves to the football players. Each Pepette is assigned to a specific player. They act as domestic servants for their appointed player by cooking them football themed deserts or making signs for them.
Players like Don Billingsley enjoy a bizarre hero status among many girls at Permian; it is a status that affords them everything from getting their books carried to getting paid for sex. Like Don Billingsley, Brian Chavez is a jock. This is where the similarities between the two end.
Unlike Don, Brian is academically at the top of his classes. He is fearless on the field and in his studies. Unlike most players who don the Permian colors. Brian holds the distinction of potential success regardless whether football works out or not. She is a dynamic English teacher who laments the priorities of the school and the community.
Although a fan of Permian football, she regrets that academics have been largely been sacrificed for football glory. A typical day for Boobie at school involves joking around in his classes or playing with an object for his amusement. Boobie is at least two years behind than his peers in all his subjects. The night before the fourth game of the season, Coach Gaines makes an impassioned speech to his staff and team. Gaines gives one of his parables to inspire his kids: this one being about a Confederate scout during the Civil War.
The theme of his story has to with friendship and loyalty. The boys seem to understand but they also feel the vulnerability of having been defeated during the season. This game has added significance; the match pits the predominantly Hispanic West side, represented by Odessa High, against the predominantly white working class East side, represented by Permian.
The author then goes into a short socio-political history of these cross- town rivals. Ethnic divisions certainly play a part in this rivalry. Permian will eventually win this game by a score of Many Permian fans camp outside of Ratliff Stadium on Sunday night to get a jump on buying tickets.
There is the usual tension in the air before the game. Tony Chavez watches over his son from the stands. Brian Chavez has been unrelenting in this game, he barely allows his opponent to breath before hitting him with a bone crushing tackle.
Tony Chavez is unlike much of this Odessa crowd. He is a successful lawyer with his own busy practice. Although he supports Mojo football financially, his political views are a lot more liberal than the largely staunchly conservative community of Odessa.
The game ends with a decisive Permian victory. The boys line the field like Spartan war heroes basking in the endless adulation of the people.
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream
It was while he was at Harvard that the idea to write a book focused upon the role high school football plays within American society, in particular rural society, took hold. Bissinger returned to The Inquirer briefly, received a Pulitzer Prize , and then took off in search of a community for which high school football was paramount. He settled on Odessa, Texas. Bissinger moved his family to Odessa and spent the entire football season with the Permian Panther players, their families, their coaches, and even many of the townspeople in an effort to understand the town and its football-mad culture. The previous season he had rushed for 1, yards and showed flashes of brilliance. This season would be the season for him to shine and lead the team to a Texas state championship. Mike Winchell, the starting quarterback for the Panthers.
Buy Study Guide The story begins in the middle of August , just before the football season begins. Inside the field house is a picture of each player who had made All-State during the last 29 years. They hang immortalized in a picture frame, a reminder of what glory looks like. The field house is also draped in Permian white and black with various nostalgic items carefully placed.