Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger, is about a classic example of a small town in Texas, a town called Odessa. Odessa is a town like most Texas towns, it was founded because of its oil, every body seems to know each other, and the Hispanics and Mexicans coming over the border have flooded it. But there is one more thing about Odessa. This is football.

Odessa has one of the greatest high school football programs in the country. Students from other states come to Odessa, just to get a chance to play, or watch a football game at Permian High School. Despite the great legends Permian High School has earned over the years of its football, there are also consequences.

Football is the only thing that brings the town together. People live for Friday night. Every player has his own life, but the center of it is football. Each of the players has their own peppette, a high school girl, devoted to them. These girls make a huge sign to put in the player’s yard for the season, posters for the game, cookies and other sweets, and they put on huge pep rallies every Friday morning. For almost every single Odessa Resident, if there weren’t a football team, they wouldn’t have anything to live for.

This town may sound unreal, but its values are extremely important to the residents. Once you are out of high school, your life just drags on, until you have children, and once again you can relive the Permian High School glory days of football.

High school football was the absolute most important aspect in the town of Odessa. Money was spent around it, the football coach was paid $48,000, while the head of the English department, with a master’s degree and twenty years of experience was paid $32,000. The football coaches were given brand new computers almost every year, while the school had just received its first computer. $70,000 was spent every year for chartered jets to a football game at Midland High School, which was 500 miles away from Odessa.

Racism was also a huge dispute in Odessa. Ever since the desegregation of schools, there had been problems in Odessa. Although a black or Hispanic football player would be given the same respect on the football field as anyone else, off the field, things were usually different. Black and Hispanic families were often treated with racism. Odessa had been rated one of the towns with the highest murder rates of blacks and Hispanics.

Academics were also another factor much less important in Odessa than football. Most of the time, teachers would teach for the first ten minutes of class, and then for the remaining forty minutes of class, they were given time to basically do whatever they wanted. Teachers along with the students thought nothing could top the Friday night game. There was no academic probation for students, if they couldn’t even reach the bare minimum. Many of the players had the knowledge of a twelve year old. Trying in school didn’t matter; performing on the football field was what mattered. If the football team did well, the town was content, despite its low scores on standardized tests. If the football team did bad, more emphasis was put on forgetting the test, and working on plays and getting ready for the next game.

In conclusion, this book goes to show that although high school football can be a great experience for a high school student, it shouldn’t be the center of a town. But it is in some towns still today. It is a terrible example for a town to be okay with the way schools don’t care about it’s student’s grades, only about whether or not the football team will win the state championship that year. A town in America shouldn’t revolve around the Friday night-lights.

In the book, Friday Night Lights, I learned a lot about how some towns emerge. Many small Texas towns were founded strictly for oil. Before long, these towns filled up with wild cowboy men, looking for bars (which became very popular businesses in these small towns,) and prostitutes, which were also in high numbers.

The town of Odessa was split in two, like many towns in Texas. There was southern Odessa and northern Odessa. Southern Odessa was mostly run down cheap houses, where mostly blacks and Hispanics lived, and northern Odessa was a richer, white section of town, where almost everyone was racist.

Not only was the town split, but the high schools were also split. There was Permian High School, for mostly northern Odessa white children, (in 1988, when the book takes place, the school was made up by 69% whites, and 23% Hispanic, with the remaining 8% blacks or other ethnic groups.) There was also Odessa High School, which was for mostly southern Odessa Hispanic and black children.

This town, like many others, was extremely reliant on the oil. In 1981, a record 4,530 drilling rigs were running the United States. Ten months later, that number dropped to 2,379. Unemployment increased, and banks, especially the First National Bank, which got into hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

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