Monday, December 31, 2007
Book Review: Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
One of my favorite movie speeches is the "Perfection" speech by Billy Bob Thorton in Friday Night Lights. It's touching, brilliant, and makes me all dewy-eyed. It was that kind of uplifting writing that I decided to read Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, the basis of the movie and the ongoing NBC TV series. I didn't get that kind of motivational warm and fuzziness, but what I did get was much more compelling.
The world of Friday Night Lights is focussed around aging Ratliff Stadium, the 19,000+ high school football stadium in the east-end of Odessa, Texas in 1988. Bissinger had moved to Odessa in the summer of 1988 to follow the lives of six of the Permian Panthers and their senior years at Permian High School as they try to make the Texas State Championships. "Goin' State in '88!" is the rallying cry of the town of Odessa.
Although Bissinger focuses on the lives of these young men who carry the weight of their town's dreams and aspirations on their shoulders, he also looks at the context of those Friday night games. He examines the social and economic circumstances from the boom and bust oil economy, to the casual racism of Odessans, and the reality of the education crisis in the United States. It shows just how important sports can be to the make-up of society, and how it reflects culture, and culture reflects it.
It's an incredible piece of literature, and I definitely recommend it to football fans, fans of the movie or TV show, and anyone else. It really is one of the best books I've ever read.
Five out of five.