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145 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story. Author With A Death Wish ?
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...
Published on September 13, 2002 by J. Reynolds

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pros and Cons
I do recomend this book to readers at all ages, but before reading it, know that just because the book is truthful it doesn't speak for all people involved or about the community of Odessa, Texas. Yes in West Texas football is a religion....as said in many football books/movies about West Texas football these towns have made up their own unspoken rules, football is a way...
Published on May 27, 2003 by Amber


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145 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story. Author With A Death Wish ?, September 13, 2002
By 
J. Reynolds (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (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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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly incredible read, February 18, 2000
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.
To Stephanie, a Permian High School grad who wrote a review of this book in May 1998: I'd advise you to read "Turning The Page - '88 Permian team still can't escape glare of 'Friday Night Lights,'" by Dave Caldwell (The Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1999). You called Bissinger "a liar," but Jerrod McDougal, whose loud Bon Jovi music was mentioned in the introduction, said "The Book [as it's known in Odessa] painted a pretty ugly portrait of the town, but there's not a lie in it." And Randy Ham, a Permian grad who works at a bookstore in Odessa, mentioned, "It is a bitingly accurate portrayal of the town. It really is."
Mike Wallace, the "60 Minutes" correspondent, said that "'Friday Night Lights' reads like fiction; unhappily, it is fact." I feel that's all one needs to know to prepare for this truly incredible read.
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99 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply one of the finest sports chronicles ever, July 7, 2004
This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even if you didn't play high school football, READ THIS BOOK, May 10, 1999
By A Customer
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant and Powerful Book, October 20, 2004
By 
crazyforgems (Wellesley, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Paperback)
"Friday Night Lights" takes you into the heart of West Texas in the late 1980's. In Odessa, TX, the Permian Panthers, the local high school football team, are the only game in town. Their Friday night games are attended by 20, 000 fans, their players are local heroes, and the businessmen of the town fete the coach...when he wins.

Bissinger introduces you to the young men on the team.

There's Boobie, the star running back, who has overcome a series of foster homes and heartache at a young age just to make it to the playing field. When he suffers a career ending injury at the beginning of the season, he is discarded by the coaches and the town in a heartless, racist manner. Then there's Mike Winchell, the intelligent yet insecure quarterback, who mourns the loss of his father and shields his mother from life. No one visits him at his home. There's Don, the son of a former Permian star turned unstable alcoholic. Finally, there's Ben Chavez, the fiery son of a prosperous lawyer. Chavez's plans include attending Harvard and having a future beyond Permian football. He seems to be he only one who has thought ahead.

Even though they are only seventeen years old, in many ways their lives are ending and not beginning. The locals tell them again and again it will never be this good. And for many, it won't.

I highly recommend "Friday Night Lights" to lovers of sports books everywhere and to those interested in learning more about one slice of American life. Even though the book was written in the late 1980's, its penetrating study of a town's relationship to sports resonates with readers today.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Friday Night Lights, April 17, 2008
This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Paperback)
Friday Night Lights
A Town, A Team, and A Dream
By H.G. Bissinger

By Cael Kiess

H.G. Bissinger spent over a year getting to know the people of Odessa, Texas. During that year he spoke with Permian football players, their families, and Odessa citizens in his attempt to write a book that told the story of how one team of teenage kids could inspire an entire town. Bissinger, an American journalist, has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the National Headliner Award, and the American Bar Association's Silver gavel for his reporting. He is also the author of A Prayer for the City, and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Bissinger did a great job accomplishing his goal of reliving the wild journey of the 1988 Permian football season and the struggles off the field. He vividly portrays the racism through schools in Odessa County, the oil booms, typical school days of Permian football players, the Mojo Fanatics, and Friday Nights in late August. One chapter, "The Watermelon Feed," really describes the passion and devotion of Permian football fans and Mojo Fanatics. Bissinger writes, "The faithful sat on little stools of orange and blue under the lights of the high school cafeteria, but the setting didn't bother them a bit. Had the Watermelon Feed been held inside a county jail, or on a sinking ship, or on the side of a craggy mountain, they would still have flocked to attend and support their team." This description allows me to feel like I'm actually there and helps me sense the amount of pride and dedication given to Permian football by the fans. He also gives a second look farther into the town of Odessa, off the football field, enhancing a better view of what was occurring in the town of Odessa and its neighboring towns. There were many highlights and struggles happening in the streets and classrooms that one would not be able to find out in just the movie. One weakness of the book is the possible effect of losing the reader through the ongoing descriptions and passages of events, people, and struggles in Odessa. There is not as much of the actual football games incorporated into the book as one would think from watching the movie. In the book, Bissinger does a marvelous job describing the life and events of the 1988 Permian football players and the Mojo fans.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of MOJO Football, October 31, 2004
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This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Paperback)
This is a great story. I read the Sports Illustrated article about the book right before the movie came out. Then I saw the movie even though reviews said it was mediocre and the book was better. My experience was different and I wish I had read the book first. I enjoyed the movie and found it to be almost exactly like the book making the book almost not worth rereading as there was no new information. Yes, they changed a few things like the championship game was really the semi-final game, but generally I found it to be very true to the book.

The story is what makes the book and the author should be commended for spending a year of his life following this high school football team. But the book is more than just football. It's about lives and dreams of young people and the economic survival of a town and how it entertains itself exclusively with MOJO football.

The individual stories of the 5 key players are exceptionally done as all have a unique story to tell straight out of casting central. I strongly recommend this book as a great way to spend a weekend following a story of a town following a legendary football team.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pros and Cons, May 27, 2003
By 
Amber (Wyo USA; Born in McCamey, TX; lived in Seminole and Crane, TX) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Paperback)
I do recomend this book to readers at all ages, but before reading it, know that just because the book is truthful it doesn't speak for all people involved or about the community of Odessa, Texas. Yes in West Texas football is a religion....as said in many football books/movies about West Texas football these towns have made up their own unspoken rules, football is a way of life, no one questions the sanctity of football, they just try like hell to win and do everything that the coach says. The Permian Panthers "MOJO" program is different than it seems in the book, especially now. If you take into the consideration how far society of all kinds and places has come since 1988 you understand not to judge today's Odessa for this book. Also when reading the book you have to remember this man only lived in Odessa for a year, while most of the people he was writing about and talking to for reference were life citizens of this West Texas town. Don't think that this is all there is to Football in West Texas, although it begins to paint a perfect picture. Thank you for taking time to read my review.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a sports story..., May 6, 2005
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This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Paperback)
Award winning investigative report H. G. (Buzz) Bissinger, was a regular for the Philadelphia Inquirer for a number of years. He even won a Pulitzer for his series on the Philadelphia court system. So when he took a leave of absence from the paper in 1988 and moved his wife and family down to Odessa to write about Texas football in Friday Night Lights, it was only natural that he would come up with a huge blockbuster.

Odessa is situated in the Oil Belt of West Texas. The fortunes of Odessa took a dive when the oil boom headed south, and it is constantly ranked as one of the worst places to live in the entire nation. But there is one area where Odessa excels year after year, and that is the football program at Permian High School. It has not just the most successful program in all of Texas, but also the United States as well. Bissinger got permission to follow the team for an entire season, starting with pre-season practice in August. He attended practices, met with players, interviewed coaches and fans, and also met with a few football critics. He attended games-always on a Friday night with a stadium packed with 20,000 screaming fans.

Along the way, he learned much about football, the oil business, Odessa, and politics. Some of what he saw was good. The pride in the Permian Panthers gave the entire town something to rally around. The Panthers were not always the most physically talented team, but Permian coaches always got the most from their well-prepared and well-conditioned athletes. But Bissinger also saw many negatives surrounding football mania. Football took a backseat to academics at Permian, and more money was spent for athletic tape for one year than for English supplies. Football players were treated like gods, and authority figures looked the other way when they misbehaved. Players were expected to play injured-at the expense of being called a slacker or losing a coveted starting spot. Racism was always an underlying theme in Odessa, which seemed a contradiction considering the strong religious values Odessians claimed to hold dear. The girls at PHS were relegated to support roles, and heaven help the girl who appeared too intelligent. And the fans tended to be rabid. When Coach Gaines lost for the second time in the 1988 season, he came home to discover almost a dozen "For Sale" signs on his front lawn. These signs would also make appearances on the lawns of players who happened to have a bad game.

When Friday Night Lights was first published, the people of Odessa felt outraged and betrayed. A book signing in Odessa had to be cancelled because of more than a few death threats. But at least the book forced a few Odessians to look at themselves in the mirror, and they didn't like what they saw. The book I read has a 10 Year Afterward, and Bissinger tells of some of the major changes brought about by Friday Night Lights. Academic programs were beefed up and test scores are on the rise. More money and efforts are being directed toward women (both athletically and academically). Fans have toned down a bit, although football still holds center stage. And he gives a synopsis of the six players he highlighted in the book. Almost all discovered that there was little that could top playing Friday night football in front of 20,000 fans.

Friday Night Lights is not just a sports story, and Bissinger shows that he is equally talented whether writing about Texas football or the city of Philadelphia. It is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READ IN ONE DAY, October 10, 2004
By 
Anne Salazar "inveterate reader" (Huntington Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Paperback)
I have had this book for some time but have never read it. When the movie came out and my husband wanted to see it, I decided I wanted to read it first. I had 24 hours to do it, and it was easy to read in 24 hours. It is a very fast read and every single word is interesting! It is amazing to me how much ground is covered in this book and while I was reading it I told my husband "There is a lot in this book that won't make it into the movie" because it is not politically correct. It is a scathingly honest look at small-town America including the racial problems they continued to have well into the 80s. But that's not why I read it. I also didn't read it because it was a book about football. I read it because I was told it was a story about individual human beings -- high school kids and their teachers and their parents and the town they live in. And it was fascinating and very true. I can believe why the author received threats of bodily harm when his publisher proposed a book signing in their town -- I guess no one likes to really, truly see themselves as they really, truly are. (I probably wouldn't like it, either.)

The book follows the 1988 football team from Permian High School in Odessa, Texas through their senior year, taking many side trips along the way. It is a fabulously-written, many-faceted book which was a delight to read. There were about 5 different points in the book when I put it down and jumped up and said "Oh my God!!!" because I couldn't believe what was happening! Needless to say, some very surprising and shocking things were happening in that small west Texas town, as I guess happens in all American small towns. I told my husband about some of them as I read them, but had to save a couple because they would obviously be plot-points in the movie and he hates to be told about a movie before seeing it. I can't wait until we see the movie because then we can discuss it.

Please, do yourself a favor and read this book. It is a great read and you will learn about yourself and your kids and your neighborhood along the way. Even a little about football, which, as Americans, I guess we should know a little about.
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Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream
Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream by Buzz Bissinger (Paperback - July 2000)
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