Sports And Academics
Sports and academics are strange bedfellows. These two important human activities have always existed in human society. In the two rival towns of Odessa and Midland, the reality of the inability of many students to balance these two healthy activities is proving to be true (Bissinger 16). The passion for sports and pressure to perform academically is strangely emanating from outsiders who are not directly engaged in either process. Such pressure comes from parents, fans, and society in general. Their indirect pressure influences the lives of their children to do well in football thereby neglecting their studies; hence the theme of misplaced educational priorities.
The restrictive nature of the possible success in either football or academics seems to influence their priorities for their children. Parents wish to see their children succeed in academics. Academics can reward many of these students, especially those yearning to graduate from universities. However, parents have indirectly put pressure on their children to win every match. This obsession with football has made them oblivious to its adverse effect on the education of their children. Consequently, enormous resources of their High School have been committed to the promotion of the football team. Everyone seems keen on the outcome of the group and ignore the grades of their children at school (Bissinger 308). The pressure from parents, fans, and boosters is influencing the behavior of coaches as well. The two towns are competing ferociously, and the people are expecting football every Friday night. The parents are going an extra mile by observing their sons as they practice. An example is Dale McDougal whose mother does the latter and goes an extra mile to invite other players over on Thursday nights for a treat. The rest of the parents and the fans wait for the Friday Night football which they are addicted to like a drug. Bissinger uses literary skills such as imagery, symbolism, suspense, and irony to capture the lifestyles of the people living in West Texas while at the same time focusing on the theme. This paper concentrates on these literary devices and seeks to determine their importance in highlighting the issue of misplaced educational priorities.
The author uses some stylistic devices to convey what goes on between the two contesting towns. These literary elements include imagery, symbolism, suspense, and irony.
Imagery. The author describes a nervous Winchell during and before a match. Consequently, the reader is petrified and wishes that the same eagerness is applied in his academics. Billingsley is described as tapping his legs up and down in anticipation of the outcome as the game progresses. McDougal bites his lips while his stomach boils and churns just like a caldron. The former football players cherish kept memories like bright objects which illuminate them whenever they become nostalgic of their days in the soccer field (Bissinger 27). These scenes introduce one to the pressures which the players face whenever they are out on the field during a match as well as their sense of attachment to the game.
Symbolism. When the author describes Boobie; sitting on the bench and feeling cold on the inside, he creates an impression that his dream was dying (Bissinger 181). He seems useless when he imagines the possibility of his inability to play. His dream is alive due to the football matches. The writer uses Odessa and Midland in the plot as two young girls. A comparison is, therefore, done between Midlands and Odessa with the former described as always doing things right, while the latter is always breaking the rules and having an attitude. Two girls are used symbolically to represent the rivalry between Midland Lee and Permian. The apparent rivalry between coaches is proven when each tries to prove their worth. The football fans are also depicted as addicted to Friday nights. The author likens their craving for football to drug addiction, especially on Friday nights. This symbolism highlights the fans’ behavior and their general mood if they were to miss their matches or when their team fails to win.
Suspense. The best example of uncertainty is the author's description of that moment when Duncan hikes the ball and instead of focusing on its course, chooses to listen to the sound of the crowd. From the spectator’s reaction, he then confirms whether he scored or not. A reader finds themselves at the edge of their seat, hoping for the best. This particular incident indicates that Duncan is a seasoned player and further confirms the importance of gaming to this society. Additionally, suspense sets in when the author describes how the Panthers are down by five points. Even though they have only one play left in the season, the outcome can be anticipated through the author’s vivid description of the scene.
Irony. It is ironical that games are considered to be social events during which people are likely to meet their life partners; yet in this case, the author indicates that the extreme nature of socialization makes it difficult to choose a life partner. Also, Chaves ranks number one in the Permian class and is also exquisite in football, a scenario which is the exact opposite of the norm that most students who lean towards football or academics (Bissinger 127). He is hiding his determination to go to Harvard and graduating at the top of his class hence the description as having a split personality. It is very rare for most of the players to balance between books and play. It is also ironical that parents in Permian school have influenced their children to focus so much on football instead if school work, yet both fields are equally important. Seemingly, the school is in support of this idea as is evident when it allocates and spends vast resources to promote the football team while neglecting their pursuit of an education.
Conclusively, although parents are willing to influence their children to achieve certain things in life, children are mostly unable to balance. Faithful to the theme of misplaced educational priorities, Odessa town experiences poor academic performance as a direct result of the emphasis on football by the parents, fans, and society as a whole. A few can balance academics and sports, like Chavez, because the two are strange bedfellows. The use of literary devices highlights important aspects such as that where the boys are spending most of their time on the sport as opposed to their studies. It is only wise that students be encouraged to have the best of education and sport. The coach’s idea that Boobie is of no value if he does not have a ball should highly be discouraged (Bissinger 67).
Bissinger, H. G. Friday Night Lights, 25th Anniversary Edition: A Town, a Team, a Dream. Da Capo Press, 2015.
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