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Paperback Friday Night Lights : A Town, a Team, and a Dream Book

ISBN: 0306813742

ISBN13: 9780306813740

Friday Night Lights : A Town, a Team, and a Dream

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Book Overview

Return once again to the enduring account of life in the Mojo lane, to the Permian Panthers of Odessa -- the winningest high school football team in Texas history. Odessa is not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business.In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out...

Customer Reviews

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More than a sports story...

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 e

Simply one of the finest sports chronicles ever

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.

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 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.

A truly incredible read

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.

Even if you didn't play high school football, READ THIS BOOK

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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