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Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream Paperback – August 11, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Secular religions are fascinating in the devotion and zealousness they breed, and in Texas, high school football has its own rabid hold over the faithful. H.G. Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, enters into the spirit of one of its most fervent shrines: Odessa, a city in decline in the desert of West Texas, where the Permian High School Panthers have managed to compile the winningest record in state annals. Indeed, as this breathtaking examination of the town, the team, its coaches, and its young players chronicles, the team, for better and for worse, is the town; the communal health and self-image of the latter is directly linked to the on-field success of the former. The 1988 season, the one Friday Night Lights recounts, was not one of the Panthers' best. The game's effect on the community--and the players--was explosive. Written with great style and passion, Friday Night Lights offers an American snapshot in deep focus; the picture is not always pretty, but the image is hard to forget. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bissinger spent 1988 with his wife and children in Odessa, Tex., principally following the high-school football team, but also observing life in this dusty, unsophisticated town. This is his superb, if disquieting, portrait of heartland America as he found it. For Odessa residents, the Permian Panthers, consistently contenders--and sometimes victors--in the state championship tournament for 30 years have become a virtual religion, although most of the townspeople are also bona fide churchgoers. After graduation, the teenagers on the team, most of whom are not well enough endowed to go on to college or pro ball, take their place among the other good ole boys at the Boosters Club, where they can recall their glory days together. 75,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306809907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306809903
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Oscar Arguijo on February 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I finally got around to reading this book just recently; I wish I had read it when it came out in 1990. "Buzz" Bissinger pulls no punches in telling it like it is, how a high school football team can be the main rallying point of an otherwise isolated community, several hundred miles from the nearest large metropolitan area; a community whose residents are deeply religious, God-fearing, and shamelessly prejudiced and intolerant of non-whites.
I remember the controversy this book caused shortly after its release. Having read it, I now understand why: In a community where there's otherwise "nothing to do," a local high school football team can unite people of all races, incomes, cultures, etc. I should know: I used to live in Lubbock, not too far from Odessa; the townfolks share the same conservative beliefs and euphoric passion for football. Bissinger's metaphor-rich style of writing really made me feel as if I was back in West Texas. The similarity of the two cities was uncanny. I began to read in search of something startling and controversial; instead it brought back a lot of memories. As I learned, the people of Odessa and Lubbock are strikingly similar (except Lubbock also has collegiate football, from Texas Tech University, to root for, as well as a few local high schools). I found Bissinger's descriptions totally accurate, if not downright eerie.
In the end, I couldn't help but feel for the 17- and 18-year-olds who had to endure the pressure to produce one victory after another, and the supporters' shameless win-or-else attitude. Bissinger's ability to empathize with America's appetite and obsession for winning really drove home the point. When I finished reading it, I cried. This book was THAT soul-stirring.
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149 of 164 people found the following review helpful By J. Reynolds on September 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
In 1970, having won district and bi-district championships, my high school football team played the Odessa Permian Panthers for the regional crown -- and they creamed us. Most frightening was the crowd that came to Abilene from Odessa to watch the game. They wore solid black (Panther colors) and they were FANATICS. When the Panther band spelled "MOJO" on the field (I'd never encountered that term before) they went absolutely NUTS.
I finally understood the program a little better after reading Friday Night Lights, a terrific examination of the semi-pathological football infatuation in Odessa. And I can't believe the author would ever return there, if he valued his life, because he certainly did not paint a flattering picture. This book is WELL worth reading. Everyone who ever went to high school will glean something valuable from it.
Most touching and telling, I thought, was the scene at the end of the book, after the season had ended, wherein the coach took down the slips of paper showing the names of the seniors who were on the team that year, and unceremoniously dumped them into the trash can. That metaphorically demonstrated the entire town's ethos toward its high school football heroes. After they no longer played for the team, they were just plain trash like everyone else.
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101 of 112 people found the following review helpful By BasinBictory on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
When I first picked up this book, on my lunch break, I arbitrarily flipped to a page in the middle and started reading. I became so engrossed in it that I was late getting back to work from my lunch break. Such is the superb quality of writing that Bissinger brings to this book.
Friday Night Lights is about the Permian High School Panthers football team in the 1988 season. In Odessa, TX, they only "have two things - football and oil, and there ain't no more oil." Carried on the adolescent shoulders of the black-clad Panthers are the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and societal well-being of an entire community. The book focuses on the intense scrutiny and pressure placed on the players, coaches, and even families associated with the program. After a tough loss, the head coach can expect to have his house vandalized, his family verbally assaulted, and calls made for his firing. The student population of Permian is predominantly white, but the few black players imported from Odessa's poor, mostly black, south side are some of the team's most successful players. The book highlights the contrast in the white, wealthy suburban area Permian is located in against the older section of Odessa, populated mostly by blacks and Hispanics.
The book also profiles several of the team's star players. Some live for every single moment they can wear the Panthers uniform, while others are conflicted at having to play in such a pressure-cooker environment. Some are the lucky sons of Odessa's richest residents, bound for Ivy-League schools, while others come from painful poverty and broken homes. Odessa is portrayed as an entire city of broken dreams, devastated by the downturn in the oil industry where unemployment is high and crime higher. What holds the community together is the Friday Night Lights at Ratliff Stadium, where the Panthers do battle not only for team and school pride, but for the pride of an entire community and people. I cannot recommend this book more highly.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a three year member and starter of the varsity squad of my High School in Chesapeake Virginia, the stories from this book were all too familiar. The small Virginia town in which I played was similiar to that of Odessa, Canton, Penn Hills, and others across the country where High School football is the main focus of attention and entertainment. This book made me think back to all of the great times I had, the great friends I made, and the many memories that I will never forget. Bissinger brought out the many "behind the scenes" views of the sport. All the problems and events that happen in the Permian locker room, coaches office, halls, classrooms, and in the lives of the players, occur everyday in schools everywhere.
On the bus ride home from the very last game of my senior year..a tough last minute loss, giving our school its first losing record in 25 years at 4-6. I thought about the two state championships we won in the two years before, and why it had to end like it did, and I thought about the blood, sweat, and tears that we have all spilled on the playing fields. As we pulled away I realized that I'd probably never step onto a football field to play again and that these days are now behind me forever. Then, like so many of the seniors on the bus with me, and the thousands more around the country...I cried.
I sometimes forget why I played football in high school. Three years after my final game I bought this book and read it. It then became all clear to me, and I recalled why I played. I laughed a little, and maybe even cried a little, and you will too.
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