Friday Night Lights Summary and Critique - Book Review Essay Sample

Published: 2022-04-07
Friday Night Lights Summary and Critique - Book Review Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Book review
Categories:  American literature
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1786 words
15 min read

Friday Nights Light is a book written by Harry Gerard Bissinger (Bissinger, 1990). The book is a story of the 1988 Permian Panther Football Team for the High school in Odessa, Texas. The author Bissinger moves to Odessa to be able to follow Permian Panthers during the 1988 season. Odessa is a typical small town in the Southern part of Texas. The town is full of mixed reactions. The peak and low seasons have a different share of experiences. In the hard times, the rate of unemployment moves out of control. However, in every Friday night in the case where Permian High School plays football, the town becomes a right place for the dreams to become a reality. The review shall provide substantial details on the summary and critique of Friday Night Lights.

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The Permian Panthers was a central part of the Odessa in Texas society and was not just an ordinary high school soccer team. The expectations for the Permian Panthers were high that the team would always make it to the State Championship. The team also had set a winning record that could not be unrivalled by any other side in the State. Permian Panthers won in succession five state championships (Bissinger, 1990). Every boy's honor in the town was to play football. The girls' honor was to be a cheerleader. The girls took the role of baking cookies during off days for the players and to also dazzle the crowds that came to watch the jingle of their school fight song. People in the town hardly raised their eyebrows when it came to matters of the football team. The football team, as a result, got more resources than the learning activities in the school, for instance, the Permian high school team-chartered planes to attend away games to the tune of $20,000. The allocation of resources on school activities got lesser attention as compared to football. Education is key to the growth of the boys and girls in the school, and the less concentration on it affected the standards of learning.

The author's narration of the Permian's High school team pursuit for State Championship presents accurate depictions of the different players. In the team, Booby Miles is a talented African-American player who plays in the position of a running back, and he identifies the 1988 season as his chance to lead the school team to the championship. He, therefore, embarks on burning some bridges in his journey such as social activities and academics. However, in an emotionally narrated chapter Booby's dreams get shattered as a result of his foot getting caught in the game by the artificial turf (Bissinger, 1990). In the novel, he becomes an example to others of the obsession he displays on his love for football. It is important to note that the boys were brought up in a culture that puts a high value on football. It is not all boys who were good in football, and therefore the efforts put in football should also have been put to other fields to tap different talents for instance improvement of education and introduction of other extracurricular activities. They would be critical for the diverse society.

In summary, the book is not just about football it highlights other issues in the society such as prejudice and race. The town remains disintegrated on the racist issue. However, the schools have largely integrated. In the narration, there is a depiction that in the conventional Texas understanding and perception an African-American is only good at playing football (Bissinger, 1990). The narration also highlights the financial hardships in the town and that the oil industry was what the Odessan economy relied on for instance its rise meant the towns economic prospects went up and its fall in the price of oil meant a fall in the economy as well. The author brings forth the issues in the Texas community such as politics, culture, and football. The author however mainly focusses on the aspect of gender roles, and the portrayal of the girls in the bridal comparison is inaccurate.

The history Odessa influences the culture around football matters. Odessa originally got marketed as a place with good soil, and ample opportunities to create wealth but in reality, it does not have arable land, for instance, has poor soil. The existence of Odessa and the economics before the discovery of oil was ranching and what the author terms "cowboy" businesses (Bissinger, 1990). The boom and bust cycle is central to the explanation of the history of Odessa and the Odessans view their state of life with pride. The people in the town embrace their culture as part of the heritage, for instance, Odessa's cowboy streak gets embodied in the football culture with praises on teamwork and toughness above the personal stats. Holding high value to one's culture is essential. The actions, however, to disregard other critical societal matters in favor of one sole activity which in this case is high school football affects the growth of Odessa. The standards of education are not improved but football receives significant allocations, and this affects learning.

Football is important in Odessa as the most popular of all sports in the region, and through this, the high school football games dominate the culture of the communities living in the region. The author explores the football influence on the Odessans. The author highlights that in Odessa football serves as a metaphor on how the people lead their lives and the value of it (Bissinger, 1990). Football is important because in Odessa it is not just a game that the community rally around it is a sign of strength and resolve. I also note that in Odessa Football is not only an entertainment activity but rather a way for the people in Odessa to cope with the pain in their lives that range from unemployment to crime. Throughout the book, the citizens argue that without the existence of the Permian football it would mean that their lives would be meaningless. The aspect of football bringing the people together is a good thing for a divided society for instance through racism.

Another essential instance to demonstrate the importance of football in Odessa is the attention paid to the football activities in complete disregard of other aspects in the Texas community. The community put insane resources towards fashioning and grooming of the boys which in turn made them a dominant squad. In the academic programs, the community did not show an effort to improve the learning standards. The example of how they could charter a $20,000 plane to provide transport for the boys and not avail the same resources to the teachers for reading materials such as books shows there was no balance on the essential issues (Bissinger, 1990). The community ought not to concentrate only on football but also other activities in the society for instance education and political matters. The diverse activities are critical to ensuring a balance in the daily life.

The culture in Odessa reinforces the ideologies concerning race and gender. The author notes that the African-American players get accepted into the teams such as Permian because after integration schools that lacked the talents black athletes could not compete favorably. The author portrays the predominantly African-American players and Carter fans as overly angry and racist for instance it is difficult to get to understand how the word "nigger" remains deeply entrenched in Odessa vocabulary 1988 (Bissinger, 1990). It remains because they do not hold the belief that using the word is being offensive and racist. The prejudices raise the question whether the fans get stirred up due to football, or they act out in a display of their inner prejudices? The author is right to conclude that the Odessans are divided for example in three high schools in Odessa one of the schools was 90% based on the minority while the rest two were 90% plus white dominated.

The culture reinforces gender roles whereby every girl in Permian High school relished to become a Pepette. Each of the girls in their act as a Pepette gets assigned to an appointed player. The girls act as domestic servants for instance cook for the players' specific themed deserts. Some players enjoy a hero status that is bizarre among the girls in Permian High school, for example, Don Billingsley who displays his affection to many different girls. It also indicates that the future for the girls is bleaker for instance for most boys the accepted fate in Odessa is a punishing career in the oil rigs, but for the girls, the gender roles ideology introduces some form of discrimination against them. The boys in the team have tender ages but get treated like adult males. There is a skewed perception of gender identity that is not only in the field but covers the society at large. However, this culture of gender inequality through reinstating mainstream gender roles gets widely accepted in West Texas.

The impression that the book left on me was a mix of both horror and sadness. I felt sad because of the boys who consider their highest achievements in life will come from the system that does not put efforts to improve learning. The politics of the day, as well as education, get often subordinated due to high school football which is a delusion for the people to have the thinking that the high school boys should get treated the same as professional football players. The culture in the society has put more emphasis on football and left out other critical factors, for instance, the people do not pay keen attention to the politics and education the same way they do to football. The community ought to develop the boys and girls in a culture that reflects their true aspirations because they have different potentials, for instance, it is not all boys who can be footballers. It is vital for the society to provide room for the boys and girls to realize their true potential.

In conclusion, I particularly enjoyed the structure of the Friday Night Lights. The book provides insights into the Odessans culture. The society experiences a myriad of problems such as unemployment, but more attention goes towards high school football. It is an indication they do not invest in activities that will alleviate poverty. The society pays so much attention to High school football that the allocation of resources for books and learning resources is minimal. The book explores the problems and excesses of a football culture that is much ingrained such as that of Permian football. The issues should be addressed holistically giving attention to all the pertinent problems for the Odessans and not the football culture only.


Bissinger, H. G. (1990). Friday Night Lights: A town, a team and a dream. Addison-Wesley.

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