Friday Night Lights Summary

Buzz Bissinger

Friday Night Lights

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Friday Night Lights Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Friday Night Lights by H. G. “Buzz” Bissinger.

Possibly one of the very few instances where every other adaptation of it is wildly more popular than the book itself is Friday Night Lights by H. G. “Buzz” Bissinger. Having been made into a critically acclaimed movie, and inspired a multi award-winning television show that spanned five seasons, Friday Night Lights has started a movement of dramatic literature soaked in Football and tremendously realistic portrayals of Middle America. This nonfiction piece was written in 1990, and follows three titular concepts: A town, a team, and a dream.

The book begins with a history of the Texan town of Odessa. Bissinger mentions how it was known as a town of many plagues, including prostitution, rats, polluted water, overcrowding, but despite all that, Odessa High School’s championship win in 1946 led to the town’s eminent pride and obsession with football until this day. Over a decade later, Permian High School opened and quickly became a rival to Odessa high, as demographics shifted and Odessa High became populated with more poor and Hispanic students, while the small black population ended up near Permian and attended that school. Since it’s opening, Permian High School has won multiple championships, making its fans very devoted and serious about football even more so.

In the third chapter, the book begins delving into the characters. With Gary Gaines, the Permian head coach, who is under immense pressure from the townspeople who do not accept loses lightly. James “Boobie” Miles, the black fullback for the Permian High football team who is an example of how bad the school is, by letting him get away with anything, especially his bad grades, because he is the school’s ticket to winning the championship, however his dreams are crushed when he injures his knee during practice, and can’t play football, and now has no chance of getting a scholarship, which is said to also be a perfect example of how the town treats different races when they have no use for them anymore.

Other major characters are Mike Winchell, who receives the entire burden following Boobie’s injury, and who is already prone to nerves, and feels overwhelmed by the pressure put on him from fans and teammates. Don Billingsly, Permian’s starting Tailback is also a player who is under a lot of pressure, but even more so from his father, Charlie Billingsly, a former football player and an Odessa legend, causing Don to screw up a lot, and trying to keep their relationship focused on football, as it is the only thing they have in common.

Bissinger goes into more detail about the school, and how misinformed they are about their children’s wellbeing and future, and how their priorities are screwed up – commenting on how much money the school spends on uniforms, sports doctors and coaches, while only a fraction of that is spent on teachers and education.

The season begins and Permian is winning games. Winchell is blowing up, now that the spotlight is off Boobie, who begs the coach to let him play, but never getting much time on the field because of how serious his injury is. In chapter eleven, Bissinger describes the rivalry of Permian and Midland Lee, another town that shares many similarities with Permian, including their hatred for one another, putting Gaines under great scrutiny and risk of termination when Permian loses their game against Midland Lee. However, at the end of the season, only one team can represent the district in the playoffs, and since both Permian and Midland Lee both have eleven wins and one loss, it will be decided with a coin toss, which Permian wins, and they qualify for the playoffs.

Permian does exceptionally well and win all their qualifying games, and are set to play Dallas’s immensely talented David W. Carter High School Cowboys in the final game. This is the most detailed football written by Bissinger, and he describes the effort put in by each of the players who give no quarter and try their best, but after an incomplete pass, Permian High School players lose 14-9, and return home. These students, considered heroes all season long, will have to continue on with their lives, but the book emphasizes the significance of these kids’ lives, and how much they sacrificed and put into these games, and how it ultimately won’t matter much because for them football is over, but for the rest of the town, another season has begun, and things will never change.

Although Friday Night Lights was written by Buzz Bissinger with the intention of focusing on the team itself, it instead became a critical commentary about the town of Odessa and the state of Texas, and how their obsession with football can ruin lives, and ignite racial tensions throughout Middle America. In fact, the book was widely hated in Odessa, Texas, and the author and his books were banned from their bookstores, but at least it had a huge legacy in the United States, being even more popularized by the movies, TV shows and other pieces of literature that it has inspired since.