What with the movie version finally coming out after many years, it seems appropriate to review H. G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, an excellent documentary about high school football in West Texas. When I was in high school in Texas, football was huge. The players were definitely put on a pedastal. Pep rallies were like religious ceremonies set to rock music. There were all kinds of traditions surrounding the football team, and they were honored with reverence.
There were traditions involving the math team, too, but nobody cared. We kicked butt with a lot more regularity than the football team, especially me because I was classified as a novice when I was a senior (that was the only year I was on the math team). I lettered in Math. My entire college career was paid for by a scholarship that I won thanks to my participation (and wins) in math competitions. That tells you about all you need to know about my high school career.
I was lucky to find a girlfriend who liked me even though I wasn't a football player. She was a band geek, so I think she understood. Our band kicked butt and won all kinds of statewide awards, and the drum corps was a riot. But again, they didn't compare to the football team despite putting in arguably longer hours and more strenuous, demanding work.
I cheered for the football team, too, hardly ever missing a Friday night game when I was in high school. Not that I watched the games a lot. It was all about showing up, hanging out with friends, etc. We had a good team, compared to the other teams locally. About the only local team that regularly embarrassed us were those bastards at Plano. But even mightly Plano was humbled by the Permian Mojo.
Permian is a high school in Odessa, way out in the middle of stinky, oilfield nowhere (the Permian Basin). They loved their football, and they figured out a way to get really great players out there. One thing they would do would be to scout the state to find really good football players whose parents weren't so well off (mostly minorities). The local oil companies would then get together and offer the parents of said football prospect (then in junior high) a well-paying job in the oil industry. The catch is that they would then have to move their families (and their son) out to Odessa, where, hey, what do you know, looks like your son is in our district now and has to go to school at Permian!
Some parents moved out there anyway because they knew it was a nationally recognized program visited frequently by big college scouts. They wanted their kid to go all the way. As you might imagine, the pressure on the poor kids was enormous. Some cracked. The fans grew to expect wins every week, and pity the coach who didn't deliver. Bissinger's book is all about the inside of that culture, and it is worth any hype you may have heard about it. I haven't seen the movie, but I know Bissinger endorses it (and it took him a long time to find a script that did the book justice, over 10 years, in spite of many offers), so I'll bet it's pretty good.Posted by Observer at October 2, 2004 06:02 PM
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