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on 26 June 2017
Without trying to be too political, if you're a parent in the U.K. and you're worried about your child's head teacher preaching, "Non competitive participation" then chuck a copy of this on their desk. On the whole it was a great read and without revealing too much it's a great insight into how some US schools prioatise subjects. It also gets very close to the main characters and the different pressures they are under at what should be a vital time in their education( this was a bonus as my son was just about to start his GCSE's so gave me a few pointers of what not to say). I would definitely recommend this book to anyone especially sports fans to see how almost impossible it is to even get on the first step of the ladder to any decent level never mind the top.
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on 4 August 2017
One of the best books ever! Really gives you an insight of the pressure of American Football. Definitely recommend reading this. Every single page is so interesting.
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on 10 July 1999
I was a three year starting quarterback for a smaller west texas high school. This book brought back all of those glorious memories for me! For those of you who have not played, this is an ideal book. --I dropped the book off at one of my ex-teammates house one day after he had came in from working in the oilfield. I asked him to read it and give me his opinion. 2 weeks later he called me around 1:30 in the morning while I was at college. He was crying, softly he said that he could not finish reading it. --For those of us who have played, it will touch a nerve!! --5 years later I am still trying to get him to finish the book...
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on 20 November 1998
I read Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger approximately three years ago. I have just re-read it after having finished "Our Guys" by Bernanrd Lefkowitz, the tragic tale of a town where the star football team members rape a retarded woman and how it's dealt with (or perhaps more accurately -- all but denied) by the town.Lights is a compelling read that makes it easy to hang on to even if one isn't the greatest fan of football. In reading a number of other reviews on this book, I view many of those as defensive reactions from people of the town or from some who know people of the town. This is sad because Lights isn't an indictment of Odessa, Texas. It is EVERYTOWN, USA. There is a great deal of U.S. universality to the story. Yes, one town was spotlighted. Often this is how we learn our greatest lessons in life... by observing human behavior in one setting and considering how it applies to ourselves and the places we live -- to our little world.Bissinger didn't betray the citizens of Odessa. He was not an "undercover" agent spying on them. The people of the town knew he was a reporter; apparently quite a likeable one. Why they expected the lionization of their town and their team as a result of the fact that the reporter was a nice guy is beyond me. Bissinger has proven himself to be an outstanding and objective observer of the culture of Odessa. And, while I don't personally know him, he had nothing against Odessa as a town and probably still doesn't (although he did receive death threats as a result of the book so I don't if that has by now changed his view at all.)Bissinger did what a good journalist does; he told the story of his objective observations. Unfortunately, from this reader's perspective, not a fun or loving or wonderful story. More accurately, I see Lights as a tragic flaw in the culture of our country. When we take kids, encourage them in what I consider one of the most violent sports we consider legitimate, turn them in to "legends" -- albeit only temporarily (while they're playing and winning), we collaborate in physical and psychological damage to our young people. When it's over, most of them have trouble putting it all in perspective -- some never do. They are forever wandering looking for the exhiliration of the attention, the cheers, the fans and the rush they experienced while a member of a winning football team. That we allow this in the midst of one of the most sensitive and critical periods in a human being's life -- adolescence -- makes it even more dangerous, with greater psychological than even physical risk, in a very physically dangerous sport.I tend to disagree with Bissinger that Football became so important for almost every member of that small down because of all that they had lost they needed something to hang on to.This story is an upper, middle and lower class story. It is every town. It is every high school and college that offers Football.I think the lessons we need to consider as a result of this masterfully narrated story are deep annd important ones. What should -- not what is -- be important to the educational and socialization process for the young of our society. For me, I've come to the conclusion that if we continue to allow Football to be played in this country, we need to change the rules. We need to much more intensively educate teachers, coaches, parents and kids themselves on keeping the "sport" in proper perspective. I'm not personally convinced it's doable. I have to conclude that while we have some nice catchphrases to describe this sport (among others in the same category) and its values -- teamwork, competition, physical fitness, working with others, discipline etc... and on and on, IT'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE ABOUT WINNING. After the "win," I'm convinced there's a degree of cultural addiction to the violence in this game. Go to any football game and watch the fans instead of the game; any observer will see a very significant number in attendance who are screaming for more aggression, more violence -- and are taking some very significant psychological satisfaction from it. Exactly what needs are being met in this vicarious manner likely depend on the individual. Yet, what I have the most trouble with is a large majority of our society meeting their own needs for aggression through small groups of very vulnerable younger members of our society. This is unconscionable, it in my personal view is deeply immoral. If we're looking for a better human being in our generations to come, it might be well to consider how to address issues of violence. That this is regulated violence makes no difference at all. We can't keeping using kids to meet unmet needs that we ourselves may have. This is a paricularly urgent lesson for parents. Far too many parents are using/abusing/allowing their offssspring to be physically and psychologically abused in order to try to relive their own "glory days" or in trying to finally attain through their kids, the heights, they themselves were unable to reach in their earlier lives and now regret. We have names for this from the simple word scapegoating to more complex psychological diagnoses called Munchaussen's by Proxy where a disturbed individual uses someone else, quite often their own children, to deliberately cause physical harm to as a result of their own deeply disturbed self imaages. Maybe it's time to stop and consider education and socialization a little more carefully and consider what's best for kids and the society of tomorrow. I can only help but conclude that part of the solution would involve immediately cutting Tackle Football, Ice Hockey, Boxing and Competitive Weight Lifting. While there may be some ostensible higher order of value to any of these sports, generally the realization of that expected "value" is most often forsaken in the need to win, in the domination that occurs and with the more likely result of often permanent physical and psychological damage -- both for men's and women's teams.Thanks Bissinger, you've offered a real eye opener to any of your readers that may work toward a better society for tomorrow. Outstanding!
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on 13 March 2007
I bought this book, like many on the back of seeing the film and then subsequently a few episodes of the TV show and i have to say i was blown away from the first chapter.

I wouldnt say it was completely different to the film or the show but alot more in depth, as you would expect from a book but watchin the film you cant help but feel that there is alot of things that they could have focused more on to make it a better adaptation, which is why this book has to be read aswell if you are a fan of either the tv show or the film because you can get a better feel for the characters and the town and why they are the way they are when it comes to high school football.

brilliantly written, poignantly set in a time where not alot is going for the town apart from those Friday Night Lights - (cheesy ending i know but what the hell)

simply brilliant
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on 11 May 1999
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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on 29 March 1999
Friday Night Lights is a sad but true story about Texas High School football. I will speak from expierence of playing for 3 seasons. Granted not in Odessa, but in Richardson TX, where football is the only ticket in town on a Friday Night. The documentary written by, H.G. Bissinger is exteremely true. The pressure is second to none and the great sacrifice surpasses all. I can relate with every one of the players talked about throughout the book and their feelings towards the game and life itself. No one can understand the story unless they have lived and expierenced it. Friday Night Lights will forever be a classic and a heart-felt documentary
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on 21 February 2011
I wanted to make sure I left a review for this book, because it really is one of the best I've read in all respects. The amount of time, energy, money and pure desire that everyone in the town puts into this American football team is unbelievable. From a British perspective it really is something else, totally unfamiliar to my own experiences of sport in this country. The unity of the community behind the team, and the fact that so many fans seem to be living vicariously through through the Permian football team in intriguing and somewhat terrifying. Players are slabs of meat on a production line, which 99 times of 100 leads to no real career or college study. The dreams of players seem sure to happen, but almost never seem to materialise. They strive for perfection, and nothing less will satisfy. The pressure that these teenagers feel must be immense. The rapidity with which players get replaced is incredible, such is the pool of players ready to fill their shoes in an instant. Another thing that is often represented in film is the popularity and seemingly invincibility of the football team at school, and this is prevalent throughout the book. Students getting false exam marks to ensure they can play, corrupt teachers and violent debates if anything goes against the players. The way some of the players act in the real world, especially near the end of the book is outrageous, as they obviously feel as though nothing and nobody can challenge them.

A lot of this book is about the back stories of players, fans, parents and the town and area of Texas itself, and this is no less interesting. Racial tension is apparent throughout the book, as are the differences in the gender roles between players and cheerleaders. It really gives you the feel for the context of the town and the lives of its inhabitants. It is depressing at times, but hey, that's the reality of life, it's no fairy tale. I for one think it is a fantastic book, and it seems the vast majority of reviewers agree. If you are looking for an simple sports story then this isn't for you as you won't find it. However, this is so much more than that. If you are interested in American football, American society or even simply true human events then you should definitely read this. It really makes you think, it shows how fickle people can be, and how attached people can get to a sports team - fanatically so. It is not a work of phenomenal literature, but rather a brutally honest depiction of life in one of the bleakest areas of northern America, and a study of the unhealthy attachment that sport draws. Read it.
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on 18 October 2012
My Friday Night Lights journey has gone in reverse: firstly I watched the television series, then the film, and finally, I read the book it was all based on.

I confess to a rudimentary knowledge of the NFL. I used to watch it on Channel 4 in the 1980s (and still do today). But this story is not about the professional stars of the game; rather it is about the importance of American football to a small town in the heartland of the US, and because of this, it managed to really strike a chord with me.

I have always enjoyed fly-on-the wall journalism and reporting, I have read Norman Mailer's book `The Big Fight' which covered `The Rumble in the Jungle,' and George Plimpton's accounts of playing for a football team and sparring world boxing champion Archie Moore.

Here Buzz Bissinger has totally immersed himself in his subject matter - choosing to uproot his young family from Philadelphia to Odessa, Texas for a year. This takes commitment to subject matter to new heights.

Thankfully he saw the ambitious venture through and after two years of editing, this revealing and searingly honest book is the result. The most important thing about any journalism is authenticity. Good writers can spin a yarn or two, cobbling together a story to make a point or to raise awareness, but it is great writers that explore and reveal the underbelly, the truth of something. Bissinger has achieved this with his book.

The struggles, hopes and day to day lives of the people he lived with in Odessa, are all brought under his microscope and movingly and sensitively recounted here.

Bissinger is not afraid to tackle the racism that was present in the West Texas town in the late 1980s, where other writers may have preferred to just focus on the sport, rather than explore the uncomfortable truths undercutting it. Do not be fooled, this is not just another book about sports. It covers the economy, the politics, traditions and attitudes of people of all ages in a part of America which is often overlooked, yet is so typical of it.

Odessa in 1988 could have been any small town in the USA and by focussing on it this is far more exciting than your usual run of the mill sports book.

This is the American Dream, warts and all. I was absolutely hooked. Now I know why this small but hugely important book influenced and spawned a film as well as a long running television series.
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on 12 September 2008
There is little than can be added about this incredible book, other than to assure any Brits or potential readers put off by the fact that they don't understand/enjoy American Football that you don't need an sort of links or history with the sport to thoroughly enjoy what is one of the finest sports books of all time.

There are many 'spending-a-season-with' sporting works, and some of them (Tim Parks' A Season With Verona and Joe McGinniss's The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, for example) are excellent. However, with regards to this type of sporting book, HG Bissinger is the king. You feel like you know Boobie, Mike, Ivory, Don and Coach Gaines by the end. As the book closes, even Bissinger's update on how they are doing (in later prints of the novel) aren't enough. You've befriended these people and you demand to know how they are now, what they are doing, etc...

As a Brit whose childhood was dominated by school sport, the Odessa recreated by Bissinger seems a mile away from the disinterest in the soccer teams of my high school. But that doesn't detract from what is an entertaining, touching and informative book. Very strongly recommended.
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