In the state of Texas American football is a religion. And nowhere is more fanatical about its football than the small town of Odessa. There, every Friday night from September to November, a bunch of seventeen-year-old kids play their hearts out for the honour of their high school. In front of 20,000 people.
In 1988 H.G. Bissinger spent a season in Odessa discovering just what makes a town pin its hopes on eleven boys on a football field. He lived with the students, coaches and townspeople who dedicate their lives to their team, sharing their joys and triumphs, their pains, injuries and bitter disappointments. He returned with a compassionate but hard-eyed story of a town riven by money, race and class, where a high school can spend more on medical supplies for its athletic program than on its English department.
Friday Night Lights is one of the best books about sport ever written. It is the story of how dreams and reality collide, at once glorious and immensely sad. Because for the 30-odd boys of the Permian Panthers, these days will have been the best of their lives.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bissinger spent 1988 in Odessa, Tex., a town obsessed with its champion high-school football team, the Permian Panthers. PW called this a ``superb, if disquieting, portrait of heartland America.''