Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Friday Night Lights, by H. G. Bissinger

Friday Night Lights:A Town, A Team, and A Dream, by H. G. Bissinger

Considering I love both football and reading, it is surprising I hadn’t gotten around to Friday Night Lights. I’ve never watched the TV show, but I liked the movie, so when I saw the book in the bargain bin I picked it up. Friday Night Lights follows the Odessa Permian high school football team through their 1988 season. Interspersed with the history of a racist-leaning Odessa we meet the coach and all the major players of the team. Boobie Miles is a highly recruited fullback that is star of the team until he blows out his knee; after that he is ostracized by the universities and vanishes into a depression. Brian Chavez is the Harvard-bound valedictorian; Don Billingsley is a troublemaker trying to live up to his father’s legend. Ivory Christian is a linebacker that doesn’t much care for football, and yet is the only player to receive a Division I football scholarship. Gary Gaines is the coach and by far the most interesting persona detailed: the pressure to win in this football-obsessed town is amazingly intense, and Bissinger does an excellent job at portraying the strain Gaines was constantly experiencing.

As interesting as the individual and team stories are, the emotion of small-town Texas is what makes the book stand out. “As the black wave of the Permian players moved out into the middle of the field, eight thousand other souls who had filled the home side rose to give a standing ovation. This moment, and not January first, was New Year’s day.” This passage more than any other captures the essence of how football is loved by Texans, including me. Great book; I’m sorry I waited so long to read it.

First Sentence:
In the beginning, on a dog-day Monday in the middle of August when the West Texas heat congealed in the sky, there were only the stirrings of dreams.


Terrill Richardson said...

I am shocked that you have not read this until now. It is a great book, one of my favorites.

James Higginbotham said...

I had the pleasure of working with a developer a few years ago that attended the school. He agreed that both the book and movie were very close to reality.

I've also enjoy the TV show, especially since they have script outlines but not word-for-word scripts. Since the actors are allowed to play with their lines, they really show off their talent.

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