By 1988 the city of Odessa, Texas, had already been through several boom and bust cycles in the oil market. Fortunes had been won and lost in the harsh oil fields of west Texas. Throughout these tumultuous times, everyone in Odessa could be counted on to support the one thing that really mattered in life: football. And not just any football, but the Permian Panthers of Permian High School. Friday Night Lights is H.G. Bissinger's chronicle of a season at Permian through the eyes of an outsider. Readers are introduced to Boobie Miles, the ferocious running back with big time plans who is injured and can't play. Mike Winchell is the team's quarterback, who dreams of playing for the University of Texas, but can't push through the self-doubt which keeps him from making the big plays when it counts. Ivory Christian may have more talent than all of them, but finds himself drawn away from football instead of toward it. Each of these players has one ultimate goal: to win the state championship. Anything else would be considered a failure.
Friday Night Lights is an excellent account of a team, a season, and a community that will go to any extreme to win a state football championship. It thinks nothing of spending $20,000 to charter a jet to fly the team to a game, while the budgets for the English department lag behind. Bissinger does an excellent job of describing not only the football, but also the social and economic factors which have made football so important in west Texas. He examines the issues of race, politics, and education that affect the players both on and off the field.
Reviewed by pk, 6/00. Other reviews by pk.