17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
FASCINATING BUT DEPRESSING,
By A Customer
This review is from: Friday Night Lights (Hardcover)
H.G. Bissinger's account of the fortunes of a high school football team during the 1988 season is a genuinely unsettling exploration of the dominant role that sports occupies in American culture. As abrasive and uncompromising as the empty west Texas prairie that surrounds it, the racially and economically-divided oil town of Odessa is a community in decline. The Permian Panthers football team, the most successful high school team in state history, is the only stable feature around which the town, bankrupted by the boom-bust oil economy of the eighties, can base any sense of identity. Such is the unbelievable extent of the town's obsession with the team, that one often forgets that the players Bissinger writes about are not seasoned professionals or even highly-touted college stars, but 17- and 18-year old high school kids. The pampered treatment that the players receive at school and from the community is disquieting, and it becomes clear that without Permian football, the people of Odessa would have nothing with which to give their lives structure and meaning. In this way, Friday Night Lights examines the relationship between a sports team and a community that occupies such an intriguing and integral role in the American identity. Bissinger's observations moreover highlight the disturbing inadequacies of an education system continually relegated to second place behind athletic success. A fascinating, if ultimately depressing book, that is as much an indictment of life in the heartland of Reagan-era America as it is of the more general nationwide obsession with sports.