Set in Odessa, Texas, Friday Night Lights chronicles the 1988 season of the Permian High School football team, the Panthers. The Panthers are cheered on by a fanatical fan base that believes that football is more important than anything and treats the football players like legends. Author H.G. Bissinger goes outside of football in this narrative, instead focusing on the community as a whole through the lens of education, athletics, and the startling problems of the oil town. This look into the life of the residents of Odessa made this the best-selling sports book of all-time and makes it a must-read for all.
The dominance of the Permian Panthers in the 80s was incredible and the rise of the team excited all of the residents of the town. The team won the title in 1980 and came close throughout the decade to repeating the feat. But the high hopes for a state title aren’t the only baggage that the players carry on their backs; the community, which suffered from a collapse to the economy with an oil shortage, rides on them, too.
The book studies the characters, from the coach, Gary Gaines, to the players to the other members of the community. The stories and lives of these subjects are told so vividly that they come to life and, for readers, feel like friends, or in some cases, enemies. Even Odell Beckham makes an appearance.
The football games couldn’t be dramatized better, but Friday Night Lights delivers a jarring hit with its other topics. The racism of the area is eye-opening and unbelievable as the struggles of integration are under the microscope. The troubled economy after the oil problems show the downfall of a once-booming town and point out the faults in their actions. Even the treatment of the Permian Panthers, from being given glory and good grades to being cast aside when performance is subpar, proves another problem in the society.
Friday Night Lights isn’t just another sports book about a high school football team; it is the most revolutionary sports book ever written. Since it was written in the late 1980s, the community has been transformed, the book a nationwide hit, and a movie and TV show made off the book. With its stellar writing and top-notch journalism, Friday Night Lights is worthy of the title of “Greatest Sports Book in History”.