Football is life in the south, whether they are the players or just fans, many people put their whole physical and mental being into the game. Friday Night Lights tells the realistic story of the Odessa Permian High School Panthers football team through the 1988 football season. The book Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger exposes the truth about life in a town that is not just home to football fanatics but also home to racist and economically challenged people.
In the movie Friday Night Lights, Peter Burg (the director), tells us a story of a team and a town that is hungry for the state title and does not touch on the problems of race, gender, education, and other important themes that Bissenger writes about. “Those lights become an addiction if you live in a place like Odessa, the Friday Night fix. ” (Bissinger XVI). Football first, then education comes second. The Permian Panthers was no ordinary high school football team. Its win-loss record was unrivalled in the state, and the team had won five state championships.
The highest honor for every boy in town was to play football for the team. In Odessa, everybody defined themselves by the school football team and many lived vicariously through the players. Their obsession of a winning season affected class time, homework, and test taking. The townspeople were so infatuated that they hardly raised any questions when the football team chartered planes for away games at $20,000 a ride while the teachers scrounged around for money to buy textbooks and basic teaching materials.
Students who were not on the football team were impacted by denying them opportunities in other areas because so much money went to support the football team. LaRue Moore, a teacher at Permian high, makes $32,000 for 20 years experience and a master’s degree, while Gary Gaines, who is both head coach and athletic director and teaches no classes, makes $48,000 and is given the use of a new Taurus sedan each year. “If we prepared our kids academically as we prepare them for wining state championships, there is no telling where we would be now. (Bissinger 134) Boobie Miles’ day in school consists first of a language arts class where the students are at least two years behind their peers in their skills. He is doing a research paper on the life of zebras. Then, he goes to Algebra I, a class he should have taken as a freshman. He is barely passing. After lunch, there is creative writing where he spends time playing with a purple plastic gargoyle-looking monster and writing a few words of a story. This is his favorite class, because the teacher doesn’t expect much from him. She sees football as all a kid like Boobie has going for him.
He eats some candy and eventually leaves early for football practice. It’s not only going on at Permian, Dallas Carter goes onto win state championship but faces severe penalties the next year for their grade tampering because the principal changed one on the player’s grade to a passing grade so that he could play in the championship game. That shows how people were so consumed by the want to win that they couldn’t acknowledge that they were making mistakes and had their priorities mixed up. The movie Friday Night Lights does not even touch on the educational theme of the book.
It only mentions once when boobie is crying to his uncle in the car saying how he can only play football and do nothing else. Another time is when Winchell, Chavez, and Billingsley are shooting in a dirt parking lot, Winchell and Billingsley say that they are never going to be able to leave the small town of Odessa like their families because they depend on football and they don’t have the grades to back them up but Chavez, who later goes onto Harvard, has a way out of the town with his grades and he doesn’t need to depend on football.
In 1988 race was still a very large issue and it still is today 21 years later. The most commonly used word in Odessa Texas is “nigger”. The people don’t believe that saying the word means they are racist or that they dislike blacks. Instead, they believe that there are two races of black people, ones who are easy to get along with and are hard-working and then there are the loud ones, the lazy ones, the ones who steal or live off welfare. To the whites of Odessa, they don’t deserve to be called black or to have respect.
Odessa even has its own form of an imaginary line separating blacks and whites, which is the railroad tracks that run through the heart of town. The tracks are the symbol of the barrier that still stands between the two races and the attitude that goes along with that. The black football players are only accepted by the Odessa townspeople because they can play football well and when they are useless to the Permian Panthers football team, like Boobie Miles, they no longer mean anything to the town’s people and they are just another “nigger”. “We fit as athletes, ut we really don’t fit as a part of society” (Bissinger 90). In the movie it barely even spoke about the issue of race when it is one of the central themes in the book. There was only one scene in the movie that really stood out that voiced the race issues. It was right before the big state championship and both coaches from Permian and Carter were meeting to decide on where to play and the officials of the game. The Carter Coach, who was African American, said he did not feel comfortable bringing his team and all of his fans down to Odessa to play in the Ratliff Stadium because of the Permian white fans.
They argued over white or black officials to officiate the game and someone said to the Carter Coach “What do you think you’ll win because you have black officials? ” Also while Carter was taking the field at the championship game the African American players were actually barking like dogs and I thought that made it seem like they were dogs and almost lower to that of the Permian, prominently white, team. Even today at our own school there is special treatment for the athletes both negative and positive treatment.
A boy and a girl both got written up and the girl did not play a sport but the boy did. The girl was kicked off campus while the boy just got a slap on the wrist. One time I personally was being written up with my friends and we are all athletes. The RA first said to us “Do you guys play sports? ” one person said no and they let them leave and then proceeded to take our names down and write us up. In the cafeteria the athletes usually sit on the right side and the non-athletes sit on the left.
One time college official came up and yelled at us because it was only athletes on one side because one boy took a chair from the other side. There is definitely a part where athletes do get perks and where they get screwed over. Sports are very important to people today in 2009. Many people obsess over games, players, and teams. Friday Night Lights was a very good book and I enjoyed it better than the movie. It hit the realistic part of the game and made you feel like you were experiencing it with them because its real and everyone has experienced working hard for something and losing.
The movie gave a very false pretty view and doesn’t get into the deep dirty thinks behind the scenes. “When I first arrived in Odessa, I anticipated a book very much like tradition of the film Hoosiers… but along the way some other things happened, the most ugly racism I have ever encountered, utterly misplaced educational priorities, a town that wasn’t bad or evil but had lost any ability to judge itself. It would have been a journalistic disgrace to ignore these elements. ” (Bissinger 353)