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

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

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-bu...

Title:Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0306814250
Format Type:Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages:357 pages

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

  • Paul
    Oct 01, 2007

    I was on an airplane one Friday night when I was reading this book. As the plane took off from Cleveland I noticed a high school football game in progress. I could see the lights.. the two teams on the field.. the crowd and the marching band. I watched the field as long as I could. Just at the point when I couldn't see the stadium anymore my eye caught the lights of another football field. Then.. when I looked out over the countryside I noticed that there were football games in most of the small

    I was on an airplane one Friday night when I was reading this book. As the plane took off from Cleveland I noticed a high school football game in progress. I could see the lights.. the two teams on the field.. the crowd and the marching band. I watched the field as long as I could. Just at the point when I couldn't see the stadium anymore my eye caught the lights of another football field. Then.. when I looked out over the countryside I noticed that there were football games in most of the small towns we were passing. I played connect the dots from one stadium to the next for over an hour.

  • Shirley
    Feb 07, 2008

    It's not a surprise that I loved this book. It is about high school football.

    I watched a lot of football growing up (Friday nights: high school football; Saturday: University of Colorado football; Sunday: NFL football - I was a huge 49ers fan). I probably could have done something great with all the hours I spent watching football. Ah well.

    My high school football team won the state championship, and I remember it as a glory day - it was snowing, the team was playing in then-Folsom Field (the U

    It's not a surprise that I loved this book. It is about high school football.

    I watched a lot of football growing up (Friday nights: high school football; Saturday: University of Colorado football; Sunday: NFL football - I was a huge 49ers fan). I probably could have done something great with all the hours I spent watching football. Ah well.

    My high school football team won the state championship, and I remember it as a glory day - it was snowing, the team was playing in then-Folsom Field (the University of Colorado football field). I had rushed back from Denver to see the game, having taken only 2 out of a possible 3 standardized subject tests (now called the SAT2?) so that I could get back in time for the game.

    Because of this book (which I first read about 8 or 9 years ago), I watched the FNL TV series, which is my favorite TV series (with the caveat that I don't really watch TV outside of HGTV and ESPN). Then I named my son Dylan, and I think I've mentioned elsewhere that it didn't hurt that his name was a phonetic homage to Dillon, Texas, the fictional town where the FNL show takes place...

    Anyway. I argue that, even if you are not a sports fan, you will be riveted. Those in my book club, all women, half of whom had no interest in football, all enjoyed it (although some confessed they skipped the play-by-play descriptions of the games in the book).

    This book clearly lays out the cultural and social context in which high school football was revered over all else. Odessa was in a downturn in the oil boom-and-bust cycle. Odessa schools didn't racially integrate until the 1980s (Brown v Board of Education was decided in 1954), and then there was football-motivated gerrymandering of school lines, effectively sending most of the African-American running backs to Permian High rather than to its rival crosstown high school. Unemployment was high. All this was forgotten under the lights of a Friday night if the Permian Panthers won before 20,000 people whose greatest hopes and dreams rested on a bunch of 15- to 18-year-olds.

    To be on the Permian Panthers football team (at least in the 80s, when this was written) was to be king. For girls, the next-best thing was to date a football player or be a Pepette - the personal cheerleader of a designated football player - to bring him homemade cookies before games and put banners on his front lawn with his jersey number. The Panthers coach was God if he won the game that Friday night. If the team lost, he knew he could count on having "For Sale" signs put into his front lawn. If the team lost twice in a season, he would not be surprised to lose his job. Eighth graders who hoped to play for the Panthers some day would be lauded for playing through their league games with a broken arm.

    At a rival high school, teachers would slip football players the answers to the exams so that they could maintain the minimum GPA required to play football. Several of these players, having secured college football scholarships, then decided to go into armed robbery. Having been raised to believe that consequences did not apply to them, they were honestly shocked when the judge sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.

    High school football in Texas is life. If that seems crazy to you, you may be persuaded otherwise after reading this book.

  • Charles
    Mar 03, 2009

    If you think this book is about high school football in Texas, you're pretty much wrong. There is a fair amount about football, but this book is really a sort of sociological study of a small Texas town where Football is played. There is a lot about the difficulties of the local economy after the oil slump, and in general the book gives what I thought was a fairly negative view of the people and their preoccupations.

    I almost never like movies better than books, but in this case I thought the mo

    If you think this book is about high school football in Texas, you're pretty much wrong. There is a fair amount about football, but this book is really a sort of sociological study of a small Texas town where Football is played. There is a lot about the difficulties of the local economy after the oil slump, and in general the book gives what I thought was a fairly negative view of the people and their preoccupations.

    I almost never like movies better than books, but in this case I thought the movie did a really excellent job of cutting out the boring parts of the book and of bringing out the good qualities and the passion of the locals instead of focusing more on negatives.

  • Dan
    Jul 29, 2009

    My friends Matt & Cassie introduced us to the television show "Friday Night Lights" this past winter. I had only heard of it on blogs before then and never really paid any attention to it.

    Wow, was I late to the party. The television show is excellent and I highly recommend it, even if you don't like football.

    Being the bookworm that I am, I had to find the inspiration for the television show. I actually bought a copy of the book for my friend Matt for Christmas and the four of us eventually d

    My friends Matt & Cassie introduced us to the television show "Friday Night Lights" this past winter. I had only heard of it on blogs before then and never really paid any attention to it.

    Wow, was I late to the party. The television show is excellent and I highly recommend it, even if you don't like football.

    Being the bookworm that I am, I had to find the inspiration for the television show. I actually bought a copy of the book for my friend Matt for Christmas and the four of us eventually decided to read the book and have a little book discussion afterwards.

    The book is a fast read and is mostly enjoyable. The parts that are not enjoyable are mainly because of the subject matter and now the writing. Reading about the town of Odessa, TX is very difficult because the society there is completely foreign to me. There are times when you want to shake the book and say, "What is WRONG with you?" Many of those moments happened, for me, when there were detailed descriptions of academics being flushed down the tubes in favor of football.

    Overall, though, the writing is good. Bissinger can be a bit over the top at times, though. He uses hyperbole and metaphor a bit too much, but he creates a solid image in your mind of what this town, this school, this team is really like. The hard part is accepting the fact that there really is a place like Odessa that has all these problems.

  • Jason
    Jun 04, 2012

    This book is heartbreaking.

    I grew up in a very liberal part of the country. My family is comprised mostly of hard-working European immigrants who value education above all else. In many ways, I should be the last person able to appreciate or understand life in small-town Texas with its conservative values and its unhealthy obsession with high school sports. Yet, I actually did attend a private junior/senior high school with a hockey program that is probably the best in the country. We won the st

    This book is heartbreaking.

    I grew up in a very liberal part of the country. My family is comprised mostly of hard-working European immigrants who value education above all else. In many ways, I should be the last person able to appreciate or understand life in small-town Texas with its conservative values and its unhealthy obsession with high school sports. Yet, I actually did attend a private junior/senior high school with a hockey program that is probably the best in the country. We won the state championship every single year of my six years there, which was in fact part of a twenty-six year streak of consecutive titles. Dozens upon dozens of students from my school have been drafted by the NHL. So perhaps the whole concept of

    shouldn’t be so foreign to me after all.

    But nope, it is still foreign to me.

    foreign.

    This book reminds me of about a handful of John Mellencamp songs that praise the glory days of youth and that try to recall a feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time and place. Mostly I feel sorry for anyone who actually identifies with any of that, as it just perpetuates the nonsense that one will spend the majority of his life with his best days behind him. To me that’s a bit pathetic. This book, though, is a complete embodiment of the Mellencamp philosophy. It is the story of the 1988 football season of Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. It is the story of the town itself, insular and deeply rooted in social conservatism, unabashedly ignorant of the larger national political scene, and seriously,

    racist. Oh my God, how racist. But above it all, town pride for its high school football team shines through—pride that is fundamental to its nature, to its identity.

    On the surface, the intensity with which the townspeople of Odessa embrace their high school football team is rather endearing. It gives the kids something to do on a Friday night; it gives them something to work for and to be proud of. But as the author delves further, the intensity starts to seem a little grotesque. These people depend on high school football to survive. More than just an escape from the financial ruin that has set in since the Texas oil bust, high school football is the

    thing that matters. They live vicariously through these teenagers, these

    , as if they are somehow their only connection to anything good or right in the world. That’s a pretty heavy burden for a 17 year-old to bear. And more than that, these 17 year-olds start to believe it themselves—that there’s nothing else for them beyond high school football. They are hit in the head with this concept over and over again as very little concern is shown for their academic progress. To their peers, their teachers, their counselors, their parents, town officials, and to basically everyone else in their sheltered world, high school football is the most important thing they will ever have.

    And yet as sad as this is, I found myself getting caught up in it: the excitement, the rush, the adrenaline of the game. It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to glamorize something that should really only represent a small part of someone’s life, but it was easy to understand how one could get wrapped up in it. I think this book is worth reading. I think it’s important. And I don’t think you need to be a high school football fan, or even a sports fan in general, to appreciate it.

    Don’t mess with Texas.

  • Taylor
    Mar 04, 2014

    I didn't grow up in a football-watching family. My father, who apparently loved the game, passed away when I was young. My mother was much more interested in baseball, and had coworkers with season tickets, so I grew up going to the Kingdome to watch Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Joey Cora, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson... I even spent my high school prom night at Safeco Field, watching Freddy Garcia pitch a great game against the Yankees (who he'd eventually join, years later, sigh)

    I didn't grow up in a football-watching family. My father, who apparently loved the game, passed away when I was young. My mother was much more interested in baseball, and had coworkers with season tickets, so I grew up going to the Kingdome to watch Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Joey Cora, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson... I even spent my high school prom night at Safeco Field, watching Freddy Garcia pitch a great game against the Yankees (who he'd eventually join, years later, sigh) instead of going to the dance. My high school football team certainly wasn't any good, and had I'd known that my college football team (Hofstra) would eventually a) have so many pro-level players, and b) get entirely nixed a few years after I'd graduated, I might've gone to more than one game. Maybe.

    I came to football late in life, and have grown to love the game for any number of reasons. My knowledge of football certainly has a ways to go, still, but I do admit to being a total sucker for player stories and backgrounds - it's part of the reason why I fell in love with the Seahawks when Pete Carroll and John Schneider came along and shook things up - they found themselves a bunch of guys who were hungry to prove themselves, who'd been told over the course of their careers that they weren't good enough. If you saw this year's Super Bowl, you know how that worked out.

    I say all of this because while I love football now, if you'd have told me a few years ago that I'd fall so in love with a book about football, I probably would not have believed you. But the thing is that the television show version of "Friday Night Lights" has a lot to do with why I opened my eyes to football to begin with, because much like

    the book - it's about so much more than football.

    takes place in Odessa in the '80s, which becomes its own sort of character - an oil-boom town that never quite recovered from the bust, full of people living it up, thinking they were invincible... but then that whole business in the middle east was sorted out, and gas prices dropped off, and millionaires and banks in Texas found themselves broke.

    Odessa was also dealing with its own particularly stagnant brand of race relations in the '80s, so much so that they had segregated schools for so long that eventually the government came in and said, "No, really, you can't do this anymore." But of course, once they realized that Black people were good at football, they were far more accepting, and drew town lines based on what demographic of people lived where (so that Permian could get more Black people). Yikes.

    Most of all,

    is about the team and the coaches of Permian - the character traits and flaws that brought them failure and success, the single moments in games that came to define them, the dreams they held of greatness and the reality of life post-football, the toxicity of being held on a pedestal at such a young age contrasted with the question of, if they hadn't had football to be great for, then what?

    Even though I totally understand why Bissinger uses the distinguished H.G. at the front of his name, a part of me wished he used his nick-name, "Buzz," because it perfectly describes his prose. His writing is just teeming with energy, with life, like the humming of a street light or a telephone wire. Bissinger shines when he's writing about people - their hands, the way that they eat, the look in their eye - you feel as though you've met them before.

    I also was a bit sad by the fact that the most recent time I remember Bissinger being in the news was when

    - it made for a rather depressing juxtaposition when he was writing about issues of class and economics in

    so gut-wrenchingly well. At the same time, though, there's clearly something in him that deeply identifies with some of the bigger picture issues here - the striving for something seemingly greater, wanting to fill some kind of void. If he uses designer suits instead of football, I suppose that's just his poison of choice.

    Whether your interest in the sport falls at zero or 100%,

    is an incredible look at the role that sports play in a community - the good and the bad - and an incredible study of Odessa, the '80s, the educational system, high school kids... so much more than just football - but plenty of that, too.

    : Continuing my "watching the movies of the books I've read this year" project, as I'm also a big film lover, I watched the movie adaptation of this, though I'd seen it before. The main problem is that this book is about so many things - the history of the town, the lives of the people in it, and obviously, football. To distill the book to just the football portions is to miss a lot of the point - which is by no means the movie's fault, since that's the most adaptable aspect. But, having read the book, I can see why making the film was not totally satisfying for Berg, and why he went on to make a TV show about it - there's just too much under the surface to get into during a two-hour film. The movie is much more faithful to the book than the TV series, which is more "inspired by" the people and the place as it is loyal to the story of anything that actually happened. Still, even though it's not connected to the story in the book at all really, the TV show does capture the same spirit, the idea that football is what gives this run-down town a purpose and a dream, what gives these people hope and possibly a chance to escape, or at least gives them glory days to wax poetic about when they've put away a six-pack...

  • Carol
    Jun 01, 2015

    If you love football, Friday Night Lights likely will be the best sports book you've ever read. If you don't love football, and aren't an avid nonfiction reader? FNL likely will be the best nonfiction book you've ever read.

    FNL is about the stories communities tell themselves. It's about how we live our values, collectively, how we relate to one another, how we motivate ourselves, our priorities, how we rationalize public policy, spending, the ways we view and talk about race, high school. It's a

    If you love football, Friday Night Lights likely will be the best sports book you've ever read. If you don't love football, and aren't an avid nonfiction reader? FNL likely will be the best nonfiction book you've ever read.

    FNL is about the stories communities tell themselves. It's about how we live our values, collectively, how we relate to one another, how we motivate ourselves, our priorities, how we rationalize public policy, spending, the ways we view and talk about race, high school. It's about how we vicariously claim the victories of others, whether they are athletes, politicians, entertainers, entrepreneurs - to give our lives seasons, meaning.

    Yup. It's all of that. I'm still not a non-fiction reader, but I'm quite glad took the time to get out of my reading norms and (finally) joined the ranks of Bissinger's appreciators.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    May 20, 2016

    "Life really wouldn't be worth livin' if you didn't have a high school team to support."

    In the Reading class I am teaching in May 2016, I challenged my students to read a book from a genre they had not read. I played along, and ended up reading an Amish romance and this sports book. One reading friend talked about this book on an

    and made it sound pretty compelling, sports or no sports.

    "You'd watch these kids play, and it seem like somethin' burning would be i

    "Life really wouldn't be worth livin' if you didn't have a high school team to support."

    In the Reading class I am teaching in May 2016, I challenged my students to read a book from a genre they had not read. I played along, and ended up reading an Amish romance and this sports book. One reading friend talked about this book on an

    and made it sound pretty compelling, sports or no sports.

    "You'd watch these kids play, and it seem like somethin' burning would be inside of you and want to come out."

    And it is compelling. Enough that they made a movie and a television show based on the book (neither of which I've seen.) It isn't just about football, but about social order, small town culture, racism, new money, the education system, conservatism, etc. I freely admit that I read the non-sportsing parts more closely than any play by play scenes (of which there were few, thankfully.)

    "We fit as athletes, but we really don't fit as a part of society... We know that we're separate, until we get on the field. We know that we're equal as athletes. But once we get off the field we're not equal. When it comes time to play the game, we are a part of it. But after the game, we are not a part of it." (black coach at Permian, 1988)

    Has this made me want to read more sports books? Well maybe. If they are actually about something else. :)


Top Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.